FCC Broadband Workshop: International Lessons

As a part of its series of national broadband plan workshops, the FCC recently convened a session on broadband policies in other countries. These workshops are designed to help the FCC develop a national broadband plan, which is due to Congress by February 17.

David Hatch of Congressdaily, wrote:

"The FCC's decision to study and perhaps replicate policies adopted overseas appears to be a tacit acknowledgement that when it comes to wiring citizens with fast Internet service, the United States has fallen behind much of the developed world."

Harvard University's Yochai Beckler acknowledged that despite the difficulties comparing data across nations, it is clear that the U.S. is falling behind. The U.S. dropped from 4th place seven years ago to 15th in 2008 among industrial nations in the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. Among all countries, the U.S. feel from 11th to 20th, based on data from the International Telecommunications Union. Even adjusted for the number of broadband subscribers per household, the U.S. ranks 12th among industrial nations.

South Korea successfully completed its broadband plan in 2002, providing tax subsidies that helped wire the nation with connections that far exceed speeds found in the United States. Korea also invested in digital literacy programs, reaching more than 10 million people, supported free Internet access to all schools, and provided free computers to low-income students who reached academic benchmarks.

Sweden used subsidies and grants as incentives for the rollout of broadband, especially in rural areas. Swedish government support would be equivalent to a $30 billion U.S. investment, when adjusted for population differences. Japan used accelerated depreciation and rural subsidies to build an all-fiber network that reaches 90 percent of Japanese households. The British Telecom representative touted a U.K. plan that calls for nationwide broadband access of 2 mbps by 2012 and a higher-speed network by 2017.

But the United States cannot simply replicate a foreign broadband infrastructure.

"'It's very hard to draw lessons because there are so many factors unique to different countries,' explained Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. 'In essence, one size doesn't fit all,' he said, noting that variables such as geography and population make comparisons difficult."

Despite these caveats, Atkinson emphasized that the common element among global broadband leaders were a national plan and government support for infrastructure deployment and adoption.

Speed Matters will keep you posted as the FCC workshops continue. Be sure to sign up to receive email updates to hear breaking news about the development of the broadband plan.

First FCC national broadband plan Thursday (Speed Matters)

First FCC national broadband workshop Thursday (Speed Matters)

FCC chews on smorgasbord of broadband plans (NextGov)

Sign up for blog update emails (Speed Matters)