Stories about the declining state of American infrastructure are everywhere -- road and bridges, airports, railways, water and sewer systems. There's never enough money, and we're always being forced as taxpayers to pay more. But there is one type of infrastructure that has had a remarkable boom: broadband Internet. It's been driven by hands-off government policies that have allowed intense competition between cable, phone, and wireless providers to drive innovation and investment. We need to appreciate this success and resist calls for government intrusion that could disrupt it.
For years we've heard that the U.S. was falling behind other developed countries in broadband. It was never an apple-to-apples comparison, however, given how large and rural the United States is. Nonetheless, the various international comparisons, despite their flaws, have often been seized upon as a pretext to justify proposed large-scale government intrusion in the broadband market.
Fortunately, the international data -- even with their limitations -- now tell a very different story. Since the economic crisis, large-scale private investment in the United States has propelled huge gains, while more government-dependent networks in Europe and elsewhere have stagnated.
Richard Bennett, a network engineer and senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), recently wrote in the New York Times that in just the last three years, broadband speeds in the U.S. have doubled. Bennett's research also revealed that over 96 percent of U.S. households now have access to wired broadband, and prices for entry-level plans are the third-lowest in the world.
The research is drawn from a study Bennett coauthored with two of his ITIF colleagues, which also found that 88.6 percent of U.S. households with a computer subscribe to broadband, that America leads the world in adoption of mobile broadband, and that on overall speed we've improved from 22nd in 2009 to eighth in the third quarter of 2012 -- despite the fact that we rank just 27th of 34 in population density (among OECD countries).
Consumers enjoy a tremendous range of broadband choices. A robust 89 percent of Americans have a choice of five or more broadband providers. And 96 percent of households have access to cable modem service, versus an OECD average of just 60 percent. Since 1996, cable companies have invested $200 billion in infrastructure development, and are presently investing about $13 billion per year.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.