Broadband: Damned Lies Edition

Today, Saul Hansell of the New York Times used two surveys — the Nokia Siemens Connectivity Report and a Pew survey — to write a post titled  “Surprise: America is No. 1 in Broadband,” which not only argues that we’re No. 1, but also tries to refute the fact that “Americans are starving for broadband.”

I have several issues with this. The first is that the results of the Nokia Siemens survey shouldn’t come as a surprise, because in last year’s version of the same survey, America was No. 1, and the second is that the Nokia Siemens survey says that, even at No. 1, the U.S. (along with other countries) has little room for complacency when it comes to improving the use of broadband in our country. It specifically calls for laying more fiber, in part to drive faster speeds. According to the report, incumbent telecom operators offer broadband speeds of more than 50Mbps in only 8 of 25 “innovation driven economies” as of December 2007.

The Nokia Siemens Connectivity report measures what people do with broadband rather than costs and speeds, and determines how that contributes to the overall economy. It gives good information about how people use today’s networks, but doesn’t help anyone look ahead on broadband use. Most of the population may not be starving today, but if speeds and networks stay the same as new online services are introduced, we will be hungry tomorrow.

So, when the federal government is spending $7.2 billion for broadband deployments, or Verizon (s VZ) is investing $23 billion in next generation networks, it’s more valuable to look ahead at what people need to be able to do with broadband networks — items such as telepresence, streaming media or ubiquitous access to high speed connections when on the go — than to issue a triumphant call to inaction on the broadband front.

Unfortunately, that’s just what Hansell does.