How far behind is the U.S. in terms of broadband?

In response to Paul Krugman and others, FCC commissioners Robert McDowell writes:

The OECD says the U.S. has dropped from 12th in the world in broadband subscribers per 100 residents to 15th.  The OECD’s methodology is seriously flawed, however. According to an analysis by the Phoenix Center, if all OECD countries including the U.S. enjoyed 100% broadband penetration — with all homes and businesses being connected — our rank would fall to 20th. The U.S. would be deemed a relative failure because the OECD methodology measures broadband connections per capita, putting countries with larger household sizes at a statistical disadvantage.

Here are statistics on household size; I am suspicious that McDowell cites only a polar point (which in essence is ranking *only* household size, and not how much household size contributes to the current rank order) in support of his case.  Not every argument in his rebuttal succeeds.

More fruitfully, should we should compare Europe to the whole U.S. or to individual states?:

…if we compare many of our states individually with some countries that are allegedly beating us in the broadband race, we are actually winning. Forty-three American states have a higher household broadband adoption rate than all but five EU countries. Even large rural western states such as Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and both Dakotas exhibit much stronger household broadband adoption rates than France or Britain. Even if we use the OECD’s flawed methodology, New Jersey has a higher penetration rate than fourth-ranked Korea. Alaska is more broadband-saturated than France.

Maybe federal policy is not mainly at fault, though more contestability is still a good idea.  By the way, here are some alternative broadband rankings, the U.S. comes in twelfth.

The pointer is thanks to Ben Davis.

Addendum: Over at Mark Thoma’s, Peter Schaeffer has a good comment at July 23, 2007 at 11:05.


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