Yoo: U.S. Broadband Model Tops Europe's Utility-Style Regs

U.S. broadband networks have generally topped their European counterparts thanks to the the model of promoting facilities-based competition among private companies.

That is according to a just-released report from University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo, who says his comparative case studies show that utility-style (as in Title II-style) regulation of the Internet in Europe have been a hindrance to broadband speeds, access and innovation.

Yoo is a familiar face on Capitol Hill as a witness on competition and network neutrality issues, favoring a case-by-case approach to the latter rather than broad regulation.

The report comes as the FCC is at least contemplating some modified form of public utility regulation as it searches for legally sustainable network neutrality rules.

"Some claim the European model of service-based competition, induced by stiff telephone-style regulation, outperforms the facilities-based competition practiced in the U.S. in promoting broadband," says Yoo in the executive summary. "Data analyzed for this report reveals, however, that the U.S. led in many broadband metrics in 2011 and 2012."

Yoo says that data shows that a greater percentage of U.S. households have 1) access to next-generation access (NGA) networks (25 Mbps); 2) better fiber-to-the-home coverage; and more broadband investment per household ($562 in the U.S. vs. $244 in Europe). The report did find that U.S. broadband was more expensive than Europe for tiers above 12 Mbps. It also found that U.S. download speeds during peak times (weekday evenings) averaged 15 Mbps, below Europe's average 19 Mbps. But the U.S. was better at approaching advertised speed (96% of advertised vs. Europe's 74%) and the U.S. fared better in terms of latency and packet loss.

Yoo attributed the disparity between networks to the differing regulator models.

"Europe has relied on regulations that treat broadband as a public utility and focus on promoting service-based competition, in which new entrants lease incumbents’ facilities at wholesale cost (also known as unbundling)," he writes, while "[t]he U.S. has generally left buildout, maintenance, and modernization of Internet infrastructure to private companies and focused on promoting facilities-based competition, in which new entrants are expected to construct their own networks. Regression analysis indicates that the U.S. approach has proven more effective in promoting [next generation coverage] than the European approach." The study is based on 2011 and 2012 data from the European Commission on Sweden, France, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, the UK, and Germany, and the FCC.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.