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AEI Study Says US Has Most Successful Broadband Policies

December 12, 2014

iStock_000003994351MediumTake a moment and imagine using the Internet in the same way you did, say, 10 or 15 years ago.

You can almost hear that irritating dial up sound, can’t you?

While a very (very!) small percentage of Americans still have to suffer through that sound to get online, for the vast majority of us accessing the Web in that manner is a far distant memory.

Internet service providers are constantly making new investments to improve the way we get online, share information and access entertainment. According to a new study by the American Enterprise Institute’s Richard Bennett the U.S.’s model for regulating high-speed Internet access is, in part, to thank for this dynamism. Bennett calls the U.S.’s model the “Pioneer Model.” Our model encourages “the displacement of first- generation broadband networks by better ones in the second, third, and fourth generations.”

As such it is “challenging [the] historical norms in public infrastructure policy.” That is, it is challenging the idea that governments (i.e. utilities) should provide infrastructure or regulate it with an iron fist. The U.S. is one of the few nations in the G7 that uses the “Pioneer Model” and Bennett developed eight criteria that show, among these seven nations, the U.S. has one of the most successful broadband policies. For example, the U.S. not only has access to LTE, but has moved on to the second generation while Europe is just “finally rolling out LTE.” The U.S. is also a leader in promoting high-speed Internet access despite the fact it “is both relatively large (as a proportion of the total population) compared to the rest of the G7 and also significantly more dispersed.”

Other models can succeed, Bennett says, but only when those who are a running or regulating access are extremely knowledgeable, which is why Bennett concludes, “The menu of choices for policymakers is relatively simple: if we want a dynamic broadband marketplace in which citizens enjoy high-performance networks at reasonable prices, it is necessary for regulators to be humble enough to allow the competitive dynamic to unshackle human ingenuity.”

You can read more about Bennett’s finding in this op-ed or by viewing the panel discussion hosted by AEI.