Although President Obama favors developing a modern nationwide broadband infrastructure in the United States, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka the stimulus bill) allots a relatively small amount (currently less than 1 percent of the total $827 billion package) to broadband development. In light of a Yankee Group report released this morning, the de-emphasis on broadband in the stimulus bill could be an obstacle to economic recovery, or at the very least, be a missed economic opportunity.
"Anywhere" Is the Goal
The Yankee Group Framework Report, “Many Roads to Anywhere: A Global Field Guide,” identifies the United States as one of four countries "at risk" in its progress toward ubiquitous connectivity (aka "Anywhere"), saying that for the US, "the creation of a robust national broadband policy is more than 25 years overdue." Report authors and Yankee Group executives Camille Mendler and Dianne Northfield list the at-risk countries, which also include South Africa, China, and India, based on their broadband penetration (as defined by the Yankee Group as the number of wired and wireless broadband lines in a country or region per person).
The report states that the US ranks 16th worldwide in broadband penetration—a sobering finding given the computer industry's push into cloud computing, a technology whose viability depends on Anywhere. The report also discusses the challenges that South Africa, India, and China face in developing their broadband infrastructures. For example, the report notes the contrast between broadband penetration (17 percent) and mobile penetration (100 percent) in South Africa and the need to allow the nation's service providers to compete effectively. China, with only 6 percent broadband penetration, must overcome the challenge of its complicated licensing structures, while India's broadband penetration, at 1 percent, is held back by its regulatory environment.
The report acknowledges that the United States needs a broadband policy, but avoids addressing the specific question of how to best support broadband development—for example, through direct government subsidy or by providing an environment that encourages more competition to improve the quality, pricing, and availability of broadband. (For a sampling of viewpoints on this topic, see "Broadband Stimulus: Not So Fast," and "Economists' Statement on U.S. Broadband Policy.") Even so, it provides credible evidence of the need for improvement in US broadband infrastructure.
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