U.S. Broadband Competitiveness: Let’s Study It To Death

countries.gif Let’s study it to death:
The United States is starting to look like a slowpoke on the Internet. Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaper broadband connections, and more of their population connected to them.

What’s less clear is how badly the country that gave birth to the Internet is doing, and whether the government needs to step in and do something about it. The Bush administration has tried to foster broadband adoption with a hands-off approach. If that’s seen as a failure by the next administration, the policy may change.

In a move to get a clearer picture of where the U.S. stands, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services — including the types, advertised speeds and actual number of subscribers — available to households and businesses across the nation.

U.S. sees some countries overtake it in broadband speeds, but is there a problem? Associated Press, 30 Oct 2007

On the one hand, this sounds like a popular approach to global warming by its deniers: now let’s ask some scientists to study it. After all, the Okefenokee and surrounds burned more acres than in living memory, western wildfires have increased fourfold since 1970, 30 million people in half a dozen southwest states may run out of water in the next decade or so, and 12 million people in the Atlanta metro area are less than 3 months from having no water. And hundreds of climate scientists have already turned in their verdict. But, hey, now let’s ask some scientists to study it.

On the other hand, this is Ed Markey’s committee, and he has seemed serious about doing something, so maybe he’s just cojmpiling a case. Sure, he’s probably reacting to people like this who are taking the same tack as outlined above:

The OECD numbers have been vigorously attacked by anti-regulation think tanks for making the U.S. look exceedingly bad. They point out that the OECD is not very open about how it compiles the data. It doesn’t count people who have access to the Internet at work, or students who have access in their dorms.

”We would never base other kinds of policy on that kind of data,” said Scott Wallsten, director of communications policy studies at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank that favors deregulation over government intervention.

But it shouldn’t be hard to compile plenty of evidence to refute the naysayers. Markey might want to start by looking at what’s going on in Japan, compare proportions of FTTH, DSL, and CATV in various countries (the countries with faster access have CATV last), and how Japan got so much faster than the U.S. Maybe even study how Japan plans to keep getting faster and more ubiquitous access.