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Benkler Tells FCC To Look At Other Countries To Inform Broadband Strategies

The FCC needs to look at broadband adoption and deployment in other countries as a way to inform, not replace, reasoned judgment, and should avoid the horse race mentality of having to catch up or overtake other countries according to various broadband rankings.

That was the advice of Yochai Benkler of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, at an FCC broadband workshop on "International Lessons."

The FCC has enlisted the center at FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's alma mater to review data on worldwide broadband deployment and adoption to "help lay the foundation for enlightened, data-driven decision-making" as the commission prepares a national broadband rollout plan, due to Congress next February.

Congressional Democrats have often pointed to the U.S.'s fall in such rankings as evidence of failed Bush administration policies, but Benkler cautioned against turning the rankings into something that needs to be overtaken or caught up with. He said that masks their true value, which is that "if something is accepted by this cluster of countries, it is at least not a bad idea," and should be on the agenda for serious consideration.

For example, he cited the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's rank of the U.S. as 15th in the world in broadband penetration, or the International Telecommunications Union study that had the U.S. falling from 11th to 17th in the world. But he also cited studies of connectivity and "readiness" that had the U.S. at the top of the list.

What the data needed, he said, is careful analysis that trims spurious claims and identifies the strengths and weaknesses.