A March 20 NY Times editorial, A Plan for Broadband, contains amazingly simplistic errors. They
state that “fewer than 27 out of every 100 Americans have broadband service”.
This is way off the mark. They are probably relying on recent OECD data
that divides broadband connections (81.2 million) by population (309 million in
the US) but this radically understates broadband availability. Using this
contorted logic, only 1 out of 4 people living in my home have access to broadband
(because I’m too cheap to buy more than one broadband service for my family of
four). According to data within the recent FCC National Broadband Plan (NBP), 95%
of American households can purchase broadband services and 81% can choose from
multiple suppliers. According to research firm broadbandtrends.com, over 70% of
American households today are connected to broadband.
They also misstate the nature of
broadband speeds. Broadband is a technology in which average speeds are always lower than peak speeds. The average US downstream broadband speed, as measured
by Akamai and published in its Q3, 2009 “The State of the Internet”
was 3.883Mbps. The NY Times editorial gushes over France, in which the typical
advertised peak speed is 51Mbps, but France ranks behind the US in average
speeds at 3.249Mbps.
Finally, the NY Times editorial argues that insufficient competition has driven speeds down and prices up. But the NBP shows that competition with a small number of suppliers has not had the deleterious impact classical economists predict it should. There have been no cases of collusion pursued by the FCC or state PUCs. Furthermore, with regard to price, according to Pew Internet the average price of a broadband connection in the US was $39 in 2009. To put this in perspective, the average American today pays one-tenth of one penny per bit of actual (not peak) broadband capacity. Barely a decade ago, with 56 Kbps dial-up connections at $21.95 a month, Americans where paying four cents per bit per month for Internet connectivity, or forty times more than they currently pay (maybe we should let broadband operators get into the health care business).
It seems that the NY Times believes that if facts get in the way of your preferred narrative it is best to ignore them. The broadband industry is characterized by the NY Times as too little, too slow, and too expensive. But on the planet the rest of us occupy broadband is widespread, fast, and inexpensive.