About This Series
Telecommunications policy once was driven to a large degree by rational analysis and fact-based decision making. But over the last 15 years, ideology has started seeping in. Many “broadband populists” on the left now see the Internet as too important a technology to leave to market forces in the private sector. Policy arguments thus are no longer about what makes sense within the prevailing broadband market framework. Now they are existential: keep the current market-based system or overthrow it to establish a regulated utility model or government-provider model.
To achieve their vision, advocates of broadband “revolution” must do everything they can to impugn the current system, which is working well, to make it look like it is really failing. This is the context for most of the claims, arguments, and attacks populists have been leveling against the U.S. broadband system.
Against this backdrop, ITIF has set out to correct the record and expose how flimsy the evidence is for many broadband myths. In a series of short policy briefs, we will address various myths in turn, identifying where analysis is skewed and uncovering more accurate evidence. We will compile these briefs into a package at itif.org/broadband-myths, which we will update with links and brief summaries of various myths as each new brief is released.
- Doug Brake and Alexandra Bruer, “Is It a National Imperative to Achieve Ultra-Fast Download Speeds?” (ITIF, November 2020).
Advocates often claim the transition to the latest broadband access technology—fiber-to-the-home—is a national imperative. If we are not able to achieve universal gigabit speeds, the thinking goes, other nations’ faster Internet will leave us behind and develop applications that will be inaccessible to U.S. consumers. In order to achieve super-fast broadband networks, advocates often call for extreme intervention or government-built networks.
Even a cursory investigation of major “high-bandwidth” applications and technologies shows no imperative for anything close to gigabit speeds anytime soon. Empirical research shows the economic benefits of additional broadband speed are close to zero after a certain threshold. What’s more, private investment continues to drive fiber deeper into the network, developing ever-faster broadband speeds both through improvement to existing infrastructure, including super-fast coax cables, and deploying new, all-fiber networks. The U.S. faces no risk to losing Silicon Valley due to slow broadband (U.S. speeds are quite competitive internationally), but we do risk undermining our competitive, dynamic broadband system by heeding the advice of gig-fiber fanatics.