Telco Lobby Loses its Best Stats as the U.S. Falls in Broadband Ranking

Sweden has overtaken the U.S. in a survey that measures how well a country uses broadband, primarily because the U.S. has stagnated on the consumer broadband side as compared to other top-performing nations. The Connectivity Scorecard, which is sponsored by Nokia Siemens Networks (s NOK), measures not only the raw infrastructure used to deploy broadband, but also policies and the way people use it. The U.S. scored a 7.77 on a 10-point scale, while Sweden scored a 7.95.

While the scorecard changes its data each year — and as such is intended not to be a yardstick for measuring improvements over time, but rather a relative benchmark of how a country fares at single point in time — in previous years, the authors of the scorecard have pointed out that the U.S. lags its peers on the consumer broadband side, while noting that the other top-ranked countries weren’t far behind the U.S. From the report:

It is important to note, however, that in areas where the US lags Sweden, it has not really closed the gap. Further, looked at over the long term, the US lead in Internet usage and in areas such as Internet banking, Internet commerce and e-business has eroded somewhat. In many of these cases, while the US remains a substantially strong performer, it is now one of many rather than a clear leader. In the current edition of the Scorecard, many of these deep-seated trends have come to the fore.

Those deep-seated trends include an inattention to boosting average upload and download speeds at consumer homes, a lack of penetration across the entire country and a decline in graduation rates, showing a less-educated population capable of wielding broadband connectivity effectively as a tool. Basically, the U.S. has been resting on its laurels while other countries have improved relative to the U.S. — for example, Sweden’s deployment of LTE and improving how businesses use broadband.

The U.S. started out in the top spot when the survey was released in 2008, but Sweden was never far behind. Ironically, the survey was used last year by the telecommunications industry to say that the U.S. wasn’t so pitiful when it came to broadband, despite the slow average speeds in the country (between 5.1 Mbps and 10.12 Mbps depending on the survey) and a pitiful lack of real competition. It looks like that complacency is coming home to roost. Unfortunately, since our broadband plan aimed at getting the U.S. up to speed on the consumer side isn’t all that ambitious, we may further fall in the connectivity rankings, leaving ISPs with even less to crow about.

Read more in-depth broadband coverage by Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).