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Democracy & Technology Blog Bandwidth Boom

Bret Swanson at Entropy Economics makes some fascinating findings in a new paper:

We estimate that by the end of 2008, U.S. consumer bandwidth totaled almost 717 petabits per second. On a per capita basis, U.S. consumers now enjoy almost 2.4 megabits per second of communications power, compared to just over 28 kilobits per second in 2000. The ability of Americans to communicate and capitalize on all of the Internet’s proliferating applications and services is thus, on average, about 100 times greater than it was in 2000.

It sort of makes you wonder why we need a National Broadband Plan from the government, particularly when you consider the possibility that the government’s well-intentioned efforts may backfire. Consider Swanson’s observation as to the last time the government tried to improve the telecommunications market:

The millennial technology and telecom crash was, in part, a result of this broadband dearth. Thousands of Silicon Valley dot-com business plans had been conceived on the assumption that real broadband would be rapidly deployed and adopted across the nation. More than half a dozen communications companies took advantage of the newly deregulated long-haul transmission market and built nationwide fiber optic networks, boosting intercity bandwidth by several orders of magnitude. But local telecom markets weren╩╝t similarly deregulated. They were re-regulated. At the FCC and in 51 state utility commissions, in fact, complex rules and price controls grew for DSL and threatened to engulf cable modems as well. Investment ground to a halt. The resulting bandwidth gap, with the crucial last mile falling well short of the market’s expectations, helped produce the crash, which lasted through 2002.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.