Is Broadband No. 1 in America?

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
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| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

Is Broadband No. 1 in America?

CircleID takes a look at America's Broadband Score

"Leonard Waverman, the dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, describe a measure he developed called the 'Connectivity Scorecard.' It's meant to compare countries on the extent that consumers, businesses and government put communication technology to economically productive use. Even after deducting the untold unproductive hours spent on Facebook and YouTube, the United States comes out on top..."

What's interesting to me is the comments. How no one can find the US Broadband score is funny. (Heard of Google much?) It isn't so much the score as what the score represents.

We have a few problems to fix:

(1) ISP Competition for one. Many places only have one choice for broadband. Many have two - cable or telco. Few have three. It makes download caps and Net Neutrality a hot button that true competition would eliminate. (And please don't give me that 3G is the third rail because guess who owns that - Ma and Pa Bell in the majority just like they own the Internet backbone and the PSTN structure in more than 70% of the country).

(2) A definition of broadband. Is it 256k one way as the FCC has defined it for years? Is it now the new FCC definition of 768k? Or is it 1M x 1M minimum? Or is it 100Mbps? This would certainly help.

(3) Deployment versus Penetration. "When you look at the 2008 ITIF Broadband Rankings report ...the U.S. ranked 15th among industrial nations at a composite score of 10.25. The U.S. is reported to have an average download speed of 4.9 Mbps, which is a far distant behind Japan's 63.6 Mbps. In addition, the report states that the US broadband penetration comes in at 0.57%." [source] Here's the detail: "Composite Score: Each nation's overall score is the sum of its standard deviation score for each of the three indicators: Household penetration or subscribers per household, average download speed in Mbps and price at the lowest monthly cost per Mbps." 

We may have "broadband" deployed in a large swath of America, but the speed is low compared to other countries. Because we are a suburban and rural country, it takes more infrastructure to hit everywhere with broadband, especially very high-speed Internet Access (greater than 3Mbps). And because most places hit are single family homes - we do live in suburban sprawl consisting of McMansions filled with Yuppies and 2.2 kids - it also affects our score at the ITIF.  According to a CWA study, the speed in the US is just over 2Mbps.

(4) Cost! We probably pay more per MB than any other G8 country. We get less speed and pay more for it. That hurts us. Surprisedly, in Wilson NC, the Muni fiber sells 100MB symmetric while TWCable and Embarq just gape at the speed and price. Well, not gape, so much as sue that it's unfair that a city would provide services it refuses to.

So we have cost, penetration, subscriber per household (density), and speed. Can't do much about density, but you can improve speed and cost. Also, there is a Digital Divide in America. Poorer families do not have computers, so do not have a need (or a budget) to buy broadband. It poses a problem that funding broadband for libraries and schools is supposed to throw a rope at. The Pew Report reflects this chasm.

BTW, the Connectivity Scorecard study has been analyzed here and by my favorite snarky blog, TechDirt.


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