IN A DEPARTURE, RESEARCHERS SAY U.S. HAS BEST INTERNET NETWORK
By JOHN MARKOFF
(EMBARGO: No electronic distribution, Web posting or street sales before 6:01 a.m. ET, Wednesday. No exceptions for any reasons. EMBARGO set by source.)
(This article is part of TIMES EXPRESS. It is a condensed version of a story that will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times.)
c.2008 New York Times News Service
SAN FRANCISCO — Contradicting earlier studies, conventional wisdom and politicians’ rhetoric, European researchers say that the Internet infrastructure in the United States is one of the world’s best and getting better.
The Global Information Technology Report issued Wednesday found that the United States now ranked fourth in the world behind just three European nations: Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. Last year the United States was ranked seventh.
The study, which has been issued annually for the last seven years, is an effort to draw a more complete picture of national network readiness.
The study was done by Insead, the business school near Paris, on behalf of the World Economic Forum, a policy and conference group based in Switzerland. It used an index generated from 68 variables, including market factors, political and regulatory environment and technology infrastructure rather than just bandwidth capacity and data transmission speeds.
Some Internet industry veterans were skeptical of the positive claims about United States compared with the rest of the world. "My gut feeling is that we don’t have the type of deployment you have abroad," said David J. Farber, an Internet pioneer and a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. "If you are looking at broadband we have a lot of problems. We are slow as molasses in deploying the next generation."
The Insead assessment offers a stark contrast to other appraisals based on single measures that have portrayed the United States as both lagging and declining in the broadband boom. Last year a range of statistics on global bandwidth usage indicated that the United States was trailing other industrial nations in both broadband network consumption and penetration as a percentage of population.
For example, statistics maintained by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development gave a conflicting message. The average advertised broadband download speed of 23 American providers was 8.8 megabits a second, while the average for 23 providers in Denmark was a considerably slower 5.9 megabits. At the same time the number of broadband subscribers in Denmark was 34.3 for every 100 inhabitants compared with 22.1 in the United States, according to a study in October 2007.
However, one of the authors of the Insead report said the narrow measures had failed to capture the true impact the Internet has when it was considered in a cultural, economic and political context.