National Broadband Plan is vital to future net vitality


Eight years ago today, the U.S. National Broadband Plan was released, as mandated by a law that received bipartisan support in Congress. That plan is rooted in a critical understanding of ongoing, dynamic forces that continue to shape what is commonly known as the broadband internet ecosystem. Its three pillars — broadband applications/content, devices, and networks — are essential parts that need to work seamlessly together so that all of us can experience the full benefits of the Internet in every aspect of our daily lives. So how has the United States fared since announcing this comprehensive blueprint for Internet development in 2010?

My research study just published by the Telecommunications Research and Policy Institute, Net Vitality 2.0: Identifying the Top-Tier Global Broadband internet Ecosystem Leaders revisits a pioneering research approach first developed in 2010, which highlights countries that are leading on a global basis in their deployment and use of broadband applications and content; devices; and networks. As in 2015, the United States (along with the United Kingdom) remains in this top tier. South Korea, Japan, and France have been replaced in the current front ranks by China, Germany, and Canada (listed by population size).

{mosads}Based on indices developed by the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and respected quantitative research organizations around the world, my study presents a unique net vitality index as a composite metric for evaluation. The index takes into account 38 factors, developed independently, to evaluate countries on an apples-to-apples basis, including a number of measures related to innovation and competition that are critical to broadband internet ecosystem development.


The top-tier broadband internet ecosystem leaders all recognize that government has a critical role to play in shaping net vitality. “These five countries have taken a variety of regulatory approaches,” the report notes, “but all share one commonality: they have benefitted the most when government challenges companies to raise their aspirations, increase the pace of innovation, and expand the scale of investments.” 

“The Open Internet remains a worthwhile policy goal, but also too narrow a foundation for Net Vitality. Rather, the Wide Open Internet is what the United States and other countries around the world should be trying to achieve. The Wide Open Internet encompasses the broader goal of an efficient ubiquitous broadband Internet ecosystem with virtually unlimited applications and content available on multiple devices. Users should be able to use the Internet at home, at work and on the run through a range of devices that access affordable high-speed fixed and mobile networks.”

This is what net vitality is all about.

In short, my research shows the original concept of a broadband internet ecosystem embodied in the National Broadband Plan remains both relevant and a very worthy goal for our country to continue. But rather than rest on laurels gained in recent years, the U.S. should move even more assertively here, since the possibility of being overtaken by more aggressive countries in this realm (think China) looms in a clearly global competitive field.

The broadband internet ecosystem continues to develop at such an astonishing pace. We’ve already made America great again in this area. Now it’s time to focus on how we can continue to keep America great here, before “Net Vitality 3.0” sets the next benchmark.

Stuart Brotman is the inaugural Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Tags Broadband Internet Internet access Internet in the United States National Broadband Plan Stuart Brotman Technology

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