In December, Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute gave a presentation to the Ultra High-Speed Task Force. It was interesting. His perspective was that there isn’t a broadband crisis in the US; we have time to develop good policy.
I think some of us were taken aback at his assessment. S. Derek Turner (Research Director from Free Press) prepared a rebuttal to Wallsten’s remark. Turner’s summary “offers a counterpoint to those who would excuse away America’s broadband problem. The simple fact is that international rankings do matter. This is not just a point of pride. Each spot the United States slips represents billions in lost producer and consumer surplus, and potentially
millions of real jobs lost to overseas workers.”
The rebuttal offers a point-counter point that specifically addresses the issues brought up during the session. I’m going to include just one example here, partially because it addresses an issues that seems to be getting a lot of local attention lately:
Myth #4: Though the international comparisons show that citizens in other countries are able to purchase 100Mbps connections for the same price as American’s pay for 1Mbps connections, results from speedtest.net show that the citizens in these other countries are not actually receiving these high speeds.
Reality: The fact is consumers in countries like Japan, South Korea, Sweden, the Netherlands, and France are paying far less for far faster services, and they are getting what they pay for. Wallsten relies on unscientific samples of user-generated speed tests conducted at the Web site speedtest.net to illustrate that speeds in most of these countries are within range of those delivered in the U.S. However, there is one critical flaw in this approach: the servers used by speedtest.net to conduct these tests are not capable of properly testing the speeds of very high-speed connections. Thus, we would expect to see the result Wallsten presents, and should ignore it. The thriving applications market in countries like Japan indicates that the broadband services in these countries are indeed capable of delivering the very high speeds that they advertise.