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America is No. 1 in Broadband According to New Connectivity Scorecard

There is a constant refrain that the United States is falling behind in broadband, as if the speed of Internet service in Seoul represents a new Sputnik that is a challenge to national security.

Saul Hansell of the New York Times writes: "But there are many ways to measure the bandwidth wealth of nations. At the Columbia/Georgetown seminar on the broadband stimulus yesterday, I heard 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..."

Read full story: New York Times

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makes more sense By Larry Seltzer  –  Feb 23, 2009 7:22 am PST

I've been trying to research the more famous numbers of how the US is a 3rd world country when it comes to broadband and I can never really nail them down. This "scorecard" number is complicated, but I'm not surprised by the basic concept behind it. I never get the sense from people in other countries that I know that they're all that much more connected than we are, except maybe with respect to cell phones.

Convoluted By Dan Campbell  –  Feb 23, 2009 7:58 am PST

Yes, I've been wondering the same thing after continually seeing weekly reports on how the US is 22nd in the world in broadband, nope make that 8th, sorry I meant 53rd, oops the US is actually number 1, etc. etc.  The only thing that appears clear is that there isn't a good way to tabulate what it means.  The BCS does a better job ranking college football teams.  And with relatives in the UK, I've come to the conclusion that broadband in London may offer more choices - maybe - but neither speed or pricing is any better than Washington DC and the majority of the US.  Right now I personally have at least two terrestrial options, and I just saw Verizon stringing FiOS lines to my neighborhood providing me with option 3, and that's before we get to any satellite-based solutions.  If people don't choose to have broadband at home, or if they have other priorities as to where their monthly budgetary dollars go, that shouldn't count against us.

my choices By Larry Seltzer  –  Feb 23, 2009 9:06 am PST

I live in a fairly well-off town in north Jersey, the most densely-populated part of the US, so I should expect many choices in broadband and I have them. I can get Comcast cable modem, FiOS, DSL from Verizon, and third party DSL (Speakeasy.net through Covad; I used to have it). I think those are all plausible options. I suppose i could get satellite too, but who would do that.

BTW, when I read one earlier version of the stimulus bill it defined "Basic" and "Advanced" broadband services in terms of upstream and downstream rates, and Basic, IIRC, requires 1Mbps upstream. This means that almost no DSL service qualifies and therefore areas only with DSL are "underserved." What speeds do cable modem have upstream?

Cable Modems By Dan Campbell  –  Feb 23, 2009 10:29 am PST

Faster than that and easily above 1Mbps but the rates vary because the upstream is shared and is limited first by physical factors but then more so by business factors.  Cable, DSL and any broadband service - and really any telco service - is governed by some level of oversubscription.  Otherwise you can't keep the prices down to something reasonable.  If a cable broadband provider is limiting the upstream to < 1Mbps it is not because the modem or the rest of the infrastructure can't physically handle it.  It's because they have to impose some limits or else the whole business model around any shared infrastructure falls apart.  If you put only one person on a head end, or 10, or even 100, it would fly, but what would the retail cost be for that small number of subscribers per head end (or DSLAM / aggregator in the DSL world)?  ISP models have always been built on the premise that the average user generates more traffic downstream (towards them, pulling it) then they are pushing upstream.  Although P2P and some other apps are changing that, it still holds true for the most part.  It is good that the stimulus bill tries to make some definition and is perhaps pushing providers to increase the upstream rates as well as the downstream rates, but these things all come at a cost which hopefully can be asborbed by the providers (within the bill's funding or outside of it) rather than passed through, in one way or another, to the end user.  This is what too many people forget.  Every time we want something better, faster or cheaper, there is a cost somewhere for someone to absorb, whether it is from your tax dollars in a a stimulus bill, or in higher end-user pricing, or in decreased profit margins (perhaps for a provider where you or someone you know is employed or have an investment in), or some other form of operational cut, layoffs, the offshore outsourcing of a traditional function or the automating of a function (to the detriment of the customer base and quality of service, e.g., most call center automated attendents).  For every positive effect there is a tradeoff.

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