OECD Says US Broadband Network Is Flailing; Telecoms Respond, "You Mean Superior!"

According to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in a ranking of broadband penetration among 30 member nations, the US has slipped from 4th place (2001), to 12th place (2006), to 15th place this year. Corporations, lobbyists and politicians have skewered the report, but this follow-up piece from Free Press provides a point-by-point rebuttal and confirms that yes, by pretty much every account, the United States enjoys craptastic Internet access.

Why? Poor policy decisions at the Federal level, leading to lack of competition in the marketplace. (This is why Net Neutrality could be a good thing.) In most markets, there’s only a couple of choices for broadband access. In the European and Asian countries that score higher, there may be up to a few dozen competitors sharing the same platform.

Regardless of how funny the term “broadband penetration” may be (and we know it’s making us smirk), that’s pretty disappointing news. US customers live and compete in an increasingly interconnected world, but–as in the mobile sector–have to deal with the underdeveloped technologies of an anti-competitive market.

Read the report, or at least the announcement about it, and see for yourself, so that the next time your favorite political representative regurgitates official corporate PR spin, you’ll be able to write a nice, polite letter of correction.

Shooting the Messenger [Free Press]

(Photo: Adam Caudill)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dukrous says:

    Net Neutrality would not solve this issue. This is about who owns the physical fiber lines. It’s the same as the power companies owning the circuits. If you solve access to the fiber for any ISP then Net Neutrality goes back to being the non-issue it’s always been.

  2. hustler says:

    I can’t imagine how awesome it would be to tell Time Warner garbage-ass Cable, “You’ve screwed up my service for the last time, and I’m going to give someone else money”…rather than just cry about it and listen to you essentially tell me that you care, but can do nothing about the terrible service.

    Its easy to give crappy service, when you have an arangement with local and or federal government to snuff out any competition.


  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    What proble ? I w s going to po t som thi g witty, bu my cab e mo em we t out.

  4. jnkdaniel says:

    there is a problem when people in SF, LA, NY, Boston, Austin, do not have access to fiber.

    i think “think tank” apparently is a stercus tank hired by privatization lobbyists.

  5. tazewell78 says:

    This is one of the most idiotic posts I’ve ever seen on this site, which is saying something. Why don’t you apply some statistics to what the OECD came up with before trashing the big evil internet providers. From FCC commissioner McDowell’s response to Paul Krugman, “The OECD’s methodology is seriously flawed, however. According to an analysis by the Phoenix Center, if all OECD countries including the U.S. enjoyed 100% broadband penetration — with all homes and businesses being connected — our rank would fall to 20th”.

    What does that mean? It means that the manner in which the OECD’s study was constructed is lousy. Stick to the chicken brains…leave the economics and statistics to the smart people.

  6. tazewell78 says:

    Furthermore, have a look at this link (Warning: High-school literacy required) [economistsview.typepad.com]

  7. ronaldscott says:

    @tazewell78: So let me get this straight. You are for, or against consumer choice in broadband providers? Because that’s really what this is about. Whether or not our ranking is a couple of ranks higher when “adjusted for density” is beside the point. That claim is simply being used here as an argument for provider choice.

    Are you really trying to say that a local broadband monopoly is good?

    I can’t think of any reason why any consumer would be reacting this way to this post unless they were a) a telecom flak (an idea that is bolstered by the fact that over half of your comments are flames on telecom-related posts here) or b) somehow offended by the idea that the USA was falling behind in something. What’s your angle, “Peter Schaeffer?”

  8. Xkeeper says:


    I live in Las Vegas, population several-hundred-thousand-something (I don’t actually care).

    The cable we pay $60/month for gives 5Mb at best, and it goes out very often.

    I know people in Sweden, Japan, and all over that can get speeds over 1Gbit for that price. 100Mbit is much less.

    Unless you’re a fucking moron, it’s easy to tell that, yes, we’re pretty fucking far behind.

  9. theodicey says:

    OK, here’s the deal with FCC commissioner McDowell. What he claims he wants to know is how many people have broadband access, not how many households (as in the OECD study).

    The complaint is that if you have a lot of people per house (like the US does, at least in comparison with Europe) then those people have broadband access and the situation is better than it looks.

    It seems reasonable, except: the data he claims to want already exists; it was collected by the ITU. Even if you look at household penetration, the US is still 15th in the OECD. And we’re 24th in the world, behind Estonia and Qatar.

    McDowell is playing a mendacious political game; his role isn’t to improve telecommunications but to avoid embarrassing the Bush administration that nominated him.

    It’s obvious when he speculates about how the OECD statistics would look if everyone had 100% broadband penetration. Who cares? We’re nowhere near that number. I can speculate too — by the time the US has 100% broadband, I’ll be able to download wikipedia into my pants.

  10. TechnoDestructo says:


    Net neutrality eliminates a potential advantage of incumbent providers. The more traffic a company handles, the more traffic they can upgrade (or rather, not downgrade) and the more pressure they can exert on other providers.

    Net neutrality doesn’t solve a problem, it prevents one.

  11. What they should stop is allowing folks like Verizon from ripping out copper. if it is so unusable, why not GIVE IT AWAY to someone who can use it?

  12. Rusted says:

    @hustler: Well aware of that having worked for them in the past. It’s why I have DSL. My uncle has satellite broadband.

  13. hustler says:

    @Rusted: Well, I firmly believe that if my money had more of a choice for its legal tender, that would inspire competition to lower prices, and give consumers a new concept…choice.

    Its 2007, DSL should already be dead…anyone who has a land line phone outside of a business should consider leaving the commune.

  14. Observer2121 says:

    @Moonshine Mike:

    Just use your common sense, why would verizon give away their copper when the are trying to get their customers to upgrade to fiber. If I were them I would rip it out too.

    What we need is the government to allow companies to blanket our cities in Wi-Max. Also a limited amount of radio frequencies should be reserved for small companies to use until they get to a certain size at which point they will have to buy their own portion of the spectrum.

    To raise performance we need a minimum standards law, for companies to continue operations in an area they should be mandated to provide citizens with a specific access speed at a set cost. Failure to do so will prompt an auction at which point another company will be given the rights to that area. Companies will then have to provide great service if they want to keep their exclusive status.

  15. dukrous says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Net Neutrality is a dead end. The mid-stream changes have nothing to do with any of this. It’s about access at the home end. If you set up competition against Verizon or SBC not just for user access but for subscriber money, then the free market will continue to enforce the open network.

    It’s really simple…open up the fiber so that you, me, or anyone else can start an ISP and not have to deal with the charges put on by the fiber owners that force us into higher prices at the user’s end. Then if Verizon decides to route all Bank of America requests to CitiBank, the user has a choice to move to someone who will let them visit Bank of America. If the outrageous fees to access fiber is eliminated, the internet remains the government agnostic platform it’s always been.

    Asking for Net Neutrality would put the purvue of what neutral means in the hands of the US Government.

    Do you really want that?

  16. Saboth says:

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least. I live in a moderately sized “city” (around 100k

  17. Saboth says:

    @Saboth: and yet you have Comcast, and that’s it. DSL covers maybe 20% of the city, and those are your 2 choices. And it seems like neither cable nor DSL are interested in expanding or offering new services, whatsoever.