Still More Broadband Fear-Mongering

On Tuesday, I reported on overblown concerns that the rate of increase in broadband subscribers is not the same as it used to be, when fewer people already had broadband. Today, there’s more broadband fear-mongering, this time about speed. A new report makes similar claims to ones already released by a DC law firm and the OECD.

The new report uses data from a speed testing website run by “the Communications Workers of America, a group that would see its membership benefit greatly from any large-scale improvements to the nation’s broadband infrastructure.” On the other hand, SpeedTest, a more general speed testing service, shows not nearly as large of a gap.

All of the hubbub over international speed rankings ignores that it is, in fact, possible to have too much bandwidth. Laying tons of wirelines all over risks cementing old technology. It may not be worth the billions of dollars involved to ensure that everyone gets 50mbps instead of just 5mbps. This is especially true in the US, which has much lower population density than the countries who top the speed rankings. Laying fiber to every farm in Kansas and village in New Mexico will not be nearly as cheap or valuable as linking Osaka and Tokyo.

If you want the US’s broadband speeds to catch up to other countries, there are a few steps we can take. As I said in the conclusion to an earlier post:

If broadband Chicken Littles are truly concerned about the US’s internet future, they should focus on solutions like allowing services such as next-gen mobile broadband and satellite ISPs to become a reality (both through deregulation and spectrum liberalization) and, most importantly, eliminating franchising.