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US Broadband Statistics Prove that Statistics Can Mean Anything



Saul Hansell in the New York Times Bits blog managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Well, actually, he managed to do what just about anyone can do when it comes to massaging statistics and reports and numbers, (case in point the global economy), he managed to create a conclusion that may or may not be backed up by the facts.

For some time now we’ve been hearing that US Broadband penetration lags behind other developed countries. According to one of the reports that Mr.. Hansell used for his column we’re actually number 1. Of course context is everything. He uses Leonard Waverman’s Connectivity Scorecard to rate us number 1. But as he goes on to state in his article, this doesn’t measure what the quantity and quality of available broadband, but how a country uses what it has. In essence because, according to the study, we have a skilled workforce that can take advantage of the technology available we rate higher. Which if you stop and think about it for a second, and if you agree with some of the premises only makes sense. Let’s see we have a larger population, and we have more urban centers with more employees, where broadband is available. You do the math.

It is sort of like saying we have the best financial system of any country simply because we have the best and most trained financial experts. We all know how that worked out.

I can’t factually dispute the findings and I’ll leave that to others. But I can argue with that the conclusions are a not quite the same when you read the actual studies for context.



  1. Sumocat

    02/23/2009 at 2:22 pm

    Haven’t done a thorough read through the report, but skimming it, a couple of metrics caught my eye: Internet servers and business connectivity. We have Google and the ICANN root servers vs. everyone else who does not. Every McDonald’s now accepts plastic using connected terminals vs. a multitude of cash-only okazu-ya shops in Japan. That, and their focus on “useful” connectivity (vs. this useless stuff I’m doing now), lead me to agree with your post title.

  2. Ben Roome

    02/25/2009 at 9:19 am

    It’s worth reading the data on the US to understand why it’s “useful connectivity” – and therefore rating on the scorecard was at the top of the list of countries.

    As these extracts from the country summary for the US state: “PC penetration of businesses is excellent, and the country is first overall in terms of secure server deployment. A large proportion of companies buy and sell online, business spending on IT is high, and enterprise telephony also enjoys good penetration.”

    Then again, it goes on to point out that: “The percentage of revenues generated by IP and Ethernet is the one business area where the U.S. actually falls behind other nations in the sample.

    And in particular where “broadband connectivity” is concerned: “Consumer infrastructure does not score as highly for the United States as their other metrics do. Both broadband and 3G penetration are average. Fibre is being deployed on a much wider basis than in most other countries in the survey, but is still significantly behind the leaders in this area.”

    The info can all be seen here:

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