August 25, 2008  ·  Lessig

As I said about my McCain on Technology video, the opening graph is not well defined. Others said the same thing. Neither are the data provided. If I had all the time in the world, I would correct both in the video. I don’t. So here’s a clarification:

I am using a hybrid of the ITU data (2000-2007) and OECD data (1997-1999) in my analysis, but only the latter in the chart. You can see a spreadsheet with both here. The numbers (#5, #22) refer to the U.S. ranking for broadband penetration over that period. OECD doesn’t have exactly the same analysis, but because there are relatively few countries with broadband penetration of any significance, it is easy to calculate that broadband penetration for the US goes from #2 to #22 from 1997 through 2007.

The Communication Workers of America have a new site and study to bolster the embarrassing state of US broadband quality. You can download their 50 state survey here. Far as I can tell, the simplest explanation for broadband speed is this: How close are you to DC regulators. The closer you are, the better your broadband. Not a perfect predictor, but pretty good.

  • Carl

    Just for clarification for those of us unfamiliar with politics or technology, what kind of DC regulator are we talking about: the kind that regulates direct current voltage or enforces American laws?

  • http://encephalosponge.com Jonathan

    I am just curious if you’re planning to address Biden’s technology policy. It seems very backwards compared to Obama’s very good one. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html?tag=newsLeadStoriesArea.0

  • George

    Lessig, this is just completely misleading use of statistics, and not taking other things into account.

    First of all, in 2000, there were only about 40 countries listed in the ITU stats. In 2007, that was over 150. If you only compare the US to the countries from the ones in 2000, the US drops to #18 from #5, not #22. Not a whole lot of difference, but still.

    Then you look at the countries above the US in 2007, and compare them to the US as far as size, geography, topography, government type, etc, and you’ll easily understand why the US has fallen “behind”.

    Norway, the one I’m most familiar with, is #7 on the list in 2007 out of the ones that were included in 2000. Norway is a small country, with less than 5 million people, with a somewhat socialist government, and has vast oil resources.

    In Norway, Telenor was a communications state-owned monopoly up until privatization at the end of 2000. Thus, Telenor had been financed by the government (with oil revenues) to be able to build up and maintain the telecommunications infrastructure in the entire country. The state still owns a significant portion of Telenor, even now, 8 years later. Most of the telecommunications providers in Norway have to lease Telenor’s infrastructure for their services. Telenor basically still has almost full control over the infrastructure, and milks other providers to be able to maintain and expand the infrastructure.

    I have no idea how you could honestly compare that to the US, in any way shape or form. Then you have Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Korea, etc, etc above the US in the 2007 ITU numbers, all of which have similar stories as Norway.

    To expect the US to be better than all of these is unrealistic and just plain silly. That doesn’t mean the US shouldn’t focus on improving their Internet infrastructure.

    However, smearing John McCain because he hasn’t (as if he is a dictator) nationalized the US’ oil resources, instituted a state-owned monopoly on telecommunications, and financed the entire thing with oil revenues – is that reality? Please.

    McCain has passed legislation to let state governments finance better infrastructure for their citizens, what has Obama done? Jack squat, that’s what. “Just words,” comes to mind.

    A little less inane hackery, a bit more facts and reality, please.

  • Marcus

    @George:
    Norway actually isn’t such a small country when you compare the area to the population. And several of the other countries don’t have large oil resources and seem to do well even without it. It’s true though that in several of these countries the infrastructure has until a couple of years ago been run primarily by the government.

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