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Letters: America's broadband success story

July 25, 2013

Re "America's broadband blues," July 23

Harold Feld fails to deliver much analytic value. Instead of attacking my New York Times opinion piece as Pollyanna advocacy because he doesn't approve of the facts, Feld should digest the impact that changing circumstances have on Internet policy.

Independent research finds that broadband is now available to more than 99% of U.S. homes, and the speed of U.S. broadband networks is improving rapidly: While they were 22nd worldwide in 2009, they're now 8th and rising. These facts have important policy implications.

With coverage and speed well in hand, America's policymakers are free to turn their attention to present-day issues. At the top of the list is transforming obsolete telephone subsidy programs into

21st century broadband and mobile stimulus engines that will encourage more widespread adoption of the Internet. Many Americans choose not to subscribe to broadband not because it costs too much but because they fail to see its relevance or lack the skills to use it.

As circumstances change in the rapidly moving technology sector, critics who harp on yesterday's problems retard needed progress.

Richard Bennett

Washington

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Feld misses some key points.

The U.S. is one of two countries in the world that has three fully deployed broadband technologies (telephone, cable and LTE wireless). About 90% of Americans can choose from among a telephone, cable or multiple wireless providers.

U.S. networks are world leaders. Nearly 50% of Americans (a five-fold increase in just two years) can get service of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), and that number will soon shoot up to 85%. Comcast's fastest tier is 19 times faster today than it was in 2007, while Verizon just announced a 500 Mbps tier. By year's end, America will boast three nationwide LTE competitors.

Feld is right that the 19 million mostly rural Americans who cannot subscribe to a wired broadband service deserve to be connected. That is why the federal government has programs — modeled on the rural electrification effort — to support new high-speed networks in those unserved areas.

Contrary to Feld's Chicken Little prognostications, there is much to celebrate.

Everett M. Ehrlich

Washington

The writer was an undersecretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration.

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