GAO Report Paints Better Picture of Broadband Adoption Than Special Interests Might Like

by Mike Wendy on October 12, 2010

In a new report on the state of U.S. broadband adoption by the GAO, the government agency said that getting people to adopt is not so much a problem of access, but rather, it’s about other factors instead.

According to the report:

Broadband infrastructure has been widely deployed in developed countries, but broadband adoption rates are more variable because of cost and other factors. In 27 of the 30 OECD countries, including the United States, broadband has been deployed to 90 percent or more of households, regardless of differences in demographic and geographic factors, while broadband adoption rates are affected by factors such as population, cost, and computer ownership. In the United States, which ranks 15th for both deployment and adoption, broadband has been deployed to 95 percent of households, with 26.4 subscribers per 100 inhabitants—above the OECD average of 23.3. (emphasis added)

Why is this important?

As The Hill reports:

The numbers tell a different story than the dire portrait painted by Obama administration officials, who have argued the U.S. is lagging other developed nations significantly when it comes to broadband deployment. But the report notes the U.S. actually stacks up well on availability even when compared to global broadband leaders like Portugal and Denmark, which have much smaller service areas to cover. America’s larger population means those rates are also harder to increase than in the smaller countries.

Indeed it does.

This should put yet another speed bump of caution in front of the FCC and its Chairman, Julius Genachowski.  It should also serve as a potent reminder to the special interests, such as the Free Press and Public Knowledge, that getting Americans online is a many-faceted puzzle – one which can’t simply be solved through blunt imposition of 19th Century, Net Neutrality regulation by power-hungry regulators.

Growing the Internet is an important policy goal.  Yet, this has been accomplished primarily through market forces and the advance of technology.  Largely absent from this equation has been government regulation.  Thankfully.

Government policy should promote what has succeeded, and then work in the margins to boost adoption rates among those who have chosen not to, or cannot, connect to the Internet.  From there, policymakers should have faith that the workings the marketplace, technological innovation, consumer education, brand reputation management, industry best practices, and current enforcement tools will help to ensure that Americans have the all Internet choices they need and desire.

Net Neutrality regulations – especially Title II reclassification – would unnecessarily hamper these important dynamics.  The GAO study goes a long way to affirm just how effective the marketplace has been in getting Americans online with only a minimum of direct government regulation and interference.

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