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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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November 7, 2007 10:28 AM

OECD Maintains US's Position as Broadband Follower

The OECD rankings dropped yesterday, and after seeing an article in my hometown paper about our troubling international standing relative to broadband deployment I think the conversation's jumped the shark.

The latest news? No news at all as the US has maintained its position in the teens.

This lack of movement has got me wondering: what impact will this have on the rallying cries previously spurred by the perceived diminishing of the US as a leader in all things broadband?

To be honest, I'm one who has never put a whole lot of stock in the OECD rankings.

First off, they don't factor in the nature of the major players in each country's telecom marketplace, ie private vs. government, monopolies vs. marketplaces (though perhaps this isn't a bad thing as it provides a clear picture of the results of one model vs. another on price, speed, and availability).

Secondly, it doesn't consider geographical and topographical concerns that are unique to each country, like the size and diversity of the American landscape (though it does admit that these factors weren't taken into consideration).

Thirdly, there's little consideration for other variables like all the dark fiber waiting to be tapped in the US.

Fourthly, and most damningly in my eyes, the only variable relative to usage and adoption they consider is the number of people with broadband and with computers at home. (I'd argue a country with an average broadband connection of 1Mbps that's actually using that connectivity to better society is more impressive and deserves more credit than a country with 100Mbps to every home but little usage.)

Here's my biggest concern about the uproar around these rankings: are we going to play Chicken Little every time we drop? Conversely, assuming some day we start moving back up the rankings will everyone back off and say everything's fine now?

Don't get me wrong, there's no doubt a lot of good can come out of tracking the rest of the world, identifying success stories, and doing what we can to learn lessons on how to further our broadband-related interests here.

But in my opinion we need to stop worrying so much about where we stand relative to the rest of the world and start focusing on what our own goals should be. It eats me up inside that these conversations have made us into followers when we should be leaders.

How can we define success in our country regardless of what the rest of the world is doing? What are the policies that will help us achieve our goals? And how can we regain our maverick American spirit as trailblazers into this digital age?

More than anything, though, what we need to do is stop debating what these OECD numbers mean. We can't keep wasting time arguing over whether or not this is a problem, and if so how big of a problem it is.

Instead, all of our energy should be placed on building our consensus around the need for more broadband deployment and adoption, and formulating the best plan of attack for realizing those goals in this country by taking the best of what's happening elsewhere and sprinkling in a healthy dash of America's ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit.


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