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ITIF Releases Comprehensive Ranking of International Broadband Performance

February 12, 2013

WASHINGTON (February 12, 2013) - A comprehensive report assessing American broadband networks, by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), indicates that, in contrast to some claims, the United States is in fact among the world leaders in several areas and is making significant progress in improving broadband quality and use as a whole.

Some critics of the U.S. broadband system assert that the United States is significantly lagging other nations in broadband and that we are falling even farther behind. The Whole Picture: Where America's Broadband Networks Really Stand analyzes broadband in OECD nations to create a more accurate and meaningful picture of where America stands in broadband deployment, adoption, performance, and price.

"Despite the frequent claims that the United States lags in international broadband comparisons, the studies cited to support this argument are out-of-date, poorly-focused, and/or analytically deficient," notes Rob Atkinson, President of ITIF. "Through this report we identify multiple areas where America is doing well, where improvement is needed and most importantly the real reasons for some areas of lagging performance."

The U.S. is near the top of the rankings in terms of the deployment and adoption of high-speed, wired networks and leads the OECD in adoption of advanced wireless LTE broadband networks. In addition, U.S. broadband speeds, while behind nations such as Korea and Japan, where government has subsidized deployment of fiber optic networks, also rank in the top 10 in the world.

The reason U.S. adoption rates are lower than about half of the OECD, but ahead of the EU-15 as a whole, has nothing to do with the price or availability or price of broadband, the report finds. It is because so few U.S. households, relative to other OECD nations, actually own a computer or have an interest in buying one. When looking at the adoption rate for households with computers, the U.S. rate is close to the top, only four percentage points behind the leader, and three percentage points above the EU-15's average of 85.9 percent.

Adoption also doesn't lag because of higher prices. America enjoys the second lowest prices in the OECD for introductory level broadband. The U.S. does rank lower in the price for faster broadband, but this is not, as some critics have claimed, because of relatively higher profits. In fact, among OECD nations, profits of U.S. broadband providers are fourth lowest. The price differential is a result of the fact that the U.S. has the second least densely populated urban areas in the OECD (dense areas are much cheaper to serve) and has devoted relatively little in tax dollars to subsidizing broadband in comparison to other nations.

"Taking into account the high cost of operating and upgrading broadband networks in a largely suburban nation and the wide economic diversity of our population, the U.S. has made significant progress in creating a vibrant and high-quality broadband ecosystem," adds Richard Bennett, Senior Research Fellow at ITIF.

The report does add that the United States needs to invest significantly more in policies and programs that encourage more residents to embrace computers and the Web and reap the benefits of the broadband Internet. It also needs to do more to expand broadband deployment to high cost rural areas. Finally, the government needs to more aggressively transfer underutilized spectrum from the public sector to wireless broadband.

"Overall, the state of broadband in the U.S. is strong, but new initiatives are required to address our key challenge in particular: the relatively large share of Americans who do not own or know how to use a computer." Atkinson says.

Read the report.

To view a panel discussion beginning at 9:00 AM EST on broadband performance featuring Mindel de la Torre, chief of the International Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission, as well as Scott Wallsten and John Horrigan, former members of the FCC's National Broadband Plan team, visit: /events/where-do-americas-broadband-networks-really-stand


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. Recognized by its peers in the think tank community as the global center of excellence for science and technology policy, ITIF’s mission is to formulate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress.

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