Study after study has shown that the U.S. lags behind other countries when it come to broadband. Not only are fast connections more expensive in the U.S. than abroad, but many people only have a choice of two broadband providers: their cable company or telecom. Some people don't even have that; an estimated 19 million Americans live in areas that lack all access to broadband, the Federal Communications Commission reported last year.
The sorry state of high-speed Web access in the U.S. has led the FCC to conclude for three years in a row that broadband isn't being deployed in a "reasonable and timely" fashion.
What does this mean in dollars and cents? Consider this stat from the New America Foundation: In Seoul, residents can obtain triple-play Internet-TV-phone service with broadband speeds of 50 Mbps in both directions for less than $33 a month; in New York City, Time Warner subscribers pay around $112 a month for triple-play service with download speeds of 15 Mbps.
But one group now says that U.S. broadband isn't as bad as it might seem. The industry-funded think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation argues in a report issued this week that the U.S. "has made rapid progress in broadband deployment, performance, and price, as well as adoption." The ITIF says that the price of broadband is "reasonable" considering that the country is "largely suburban."
The report goes on to assert that there is "robust" competition between cable and DSL fiber-based facilities, that entry-level pricing is low and that pricing is progressive, in that people pay more for higher speeds.
The ITIF also questions whether there's really a demand for fast connections. "While gigabit test bed projects ... are important, the idea that most U.S. broadband users currently need networks this fast is simply wrong. Virtually all existing broadband applications run quite well on the average broadband network in most U.S. cities," the report states. "This does not mean that higher speeds may not or will not be needed as new applications emerge, but the notion that nations should massively overbuild most of its networks far ahead of real consumer demand is not wise economics or broadband policy."
Of course, that conclusion seems to discount the enormous enthusiasm that high-speed services are able to generate. Consider, last month, Broadband Reports called attention to a report from Ideas & Solutions! Inc. showing that 60% of people who could receive Google Fiber -- which offers Kansas City residents 1 GB broadband -- say they would like to do so. That study, based on a survey of 1,303 people, also found tremendous enthusiasm for the service, with 88% of respondents saying that Google Fiber is better for IP-based TV apps, and 90% of respondents saying that Google is the better option for cloud-based services.