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American Broadband Access

By Taylor Marvin

Out of a list of investment and development related international comparisons from the White House’s Enhanced State of the Union slide package, here’s an interesting statistic:

“Access to High-Speed Internet: 95.9% of South Koreans have access, 63.5% of Americans have access”

This isn’t a fair comparison. The average population density of South Korea is 487 people per square kilometer, making it the second densest large country in the world after Bangladesh. In the US the average population density is 32 people per square kilometer. The United States is also nearly a hundred times larger than South Korea, and much more rural. It will always be much more expensive to lay broadband cable across America’s large rural areas than in more urban countries, and it’s likely that the US will never achieve the high-speed internet penetration of South Korea. High-speed internet access is an important economic indicator, but portraying America as somehow coming up short to denser countries ignores how difficult achieving 63% access in the US has been. US telecom providers are taxed to subside expensive and unprofitable connections to rural consumers, and without this government intervention America’s access percentage would be lower. This really isn’t a revealing choice for making the case for increased national infrastructure investment.

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