US Bandwidth Scare

A DC law firm just published a report claiming that the US is falling behind other countries in broadband deployment. The report, like an earlier one by the OECD, compares advertised speeds across countries. The average advertised broadband speed is much less in the US than in countries like France, South Korea, and especially Japan. But SpeedTest, which measures actual speed – not advertised speed – shows that speeds in the US are actually quite a bit closer to speeds in other countries than OECD data would suggest. Verizon and Comcast are both rolling out 50mbps services, catching up to other countries.

Most disturbingly, the new report suggests that Japan’s success in broadband speeds is due to a large amount of government involvement. But though Japanese households pay less per Mbps than Americans do, they pay for it in taxes that provide the subsidies and infrastructure – and, more dynamically, in reduced competition as a result of government involvement.

If the US wants to step ahead in broadband deployment, we should eliminate local franchising and prevent calls for net neutrality from stamping out the incentives needed for massive infrastructure upgrades.