Another Voice: Government regulation of the Internet can only hurt - The Buffalo News

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Another Voice: Government regulation of the Internet can only hurt

By John Sununu and Harold Ford

It’s no secret that the tech industry has become critical to New York’s economy. With more than 318,000 people employed in the technology field, New York is ranked third in the nation behind California and Texas.

Tech companies thrive in New York in part because of the hearty high-speed data infrastructure that runs throughout the state. But recently, some critics argue that America should follow Europe and heavily regulate the broadband Internet. This, they argue, would create more competition and faster Internet speeds for New York.

But these statements rely on outdated arguments and cherry-picked facts. A more comprehensive look at the key data shows that the United States leads the world with faster speeds and a more expansive reach than most of our major industrial competitors.

The United States has more broadband connections than any country except China and ranks third among Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development countries in terms of wired broadband choices. Nearly 90 percent of Americans can choose from two or more wired competitors.

Over the last decade, broadband prices have largely remained flat, and price-per-megabit has actually declined by 87 percent for the average consumer, largely because of the dramatic speed increases.

And, notably, these accomplishments were achieved without the massive public subsidies that have been forced onto taxpayers in many European and Asian countries.

Some critics still charge that U.S. broadband won’t be first-class until everyone has 1 gigabit-per-second service. But the reality is that the market for even faster services will grow as applications emerge that require them. The very few countries that have experimented with 1-gig services have found that there are no meaningful applications yet developed to take advantage of those speeds.

This is not to say that the U.S. broadband industry is without challenges. We face issues in getting broadband to the most rural and least populous parts of our nation, and federal programs need a more laser-like focus to address this geographic gap.

We also face the challenge of helping more low-income families to get on the broadband superhighway. Thirty percent of Americans don’t subscribe to broadband, as many of them don’t see the relevance of the Internet.

Solving geographic availability and low-income adoption are winnable challenges with the right government policies and private sector initiatives. Critics should focus on the real problem areas rather than use outdated and incomplete data to paint an erroneous picture of our alleged shortcomings.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., and former Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. are honorary co-chairmen of Broadband for America.

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