By Rich Sill
As the United States continues to innovate and expand its broadband infrastructure from sea to shining sea, it should not be looking to Europe for guidance. For years, the European Union has been behind the United States in broadband deployment, adoption, investment, and competition due to valuing burdensome government regulation over private sector investment.
If countries want to close the digital divide, they should do so by incentivizing private investment and innovation rather than rely on the government and/or create tight restrictions on private companies. History has shown us that private companies and individuals are the biggest innovators in any economy; the government, however, is one of the least innovative institutions yet the most expensive.
Over the past 20 years, millions of people have gained access to fast, affordable broadband while internet speeds continue to increase while prices continue to decrease. When millions of Americans had to switch to online practically overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic, telecom companies in the U.S. were able to withstand the sudden adjustment. As the United States adjusts to virtual learning and hybrid work for the long run, telecom companies will continue to innovate. All the advancements in broadband deployment, adoption, investment, and competition are to the United States allowing private companies to invest in broadband infrastructure and move everything forward.
Europe, on the other hand, has always taken a heavy regulation approach to broadband, which is why it is very behind the United States on deployment, adoption, and competition. Instead of incentivizing private European companies to invest in broadband, the European Union has focused on a single model—a big government model—and a single technology it believes would magically materialize in due time. However, this strategy continues to fail millions of Europeans, as burdensome government regulation kills investment and innovation. American consumers benefit from more than twice the facilities-based competition of their European counterparts. When comparing only rural areas, the U.S. lead extends to more than 7 times the E.U. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Europe’s internet speeds decreased heavily from all the new internet traffic. If Europe continues to disincentivize private companies from investing into broadband infrastructure, it will continue to be far behind the United States in broadband deployment, adoption, and innovation.
As the United States continue to close its own digital divide, policymakers should look to Europe as how not to treat broadband. In contrast to the European Union, the United States should incentivize private sector investment, embrace all available technological tools, and not rely on the government to provide all the answers.
Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal