Let’s Not Forget How Broadband Happened


Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech at LivingSocial’s Washington, D.C., headquarters about the economic impact of broadband. LivingSocial is a great example of a start-up company that has been empowered by broadband, becoming one of the leaders in the social-buying category and transforming the way consumers discover and buy goods and services.

The Chairman highlighted the economic force that broadband has become in the American economy, especially as a technology that powers job creation, and he cited a recent report by McKinsey which shows that broadband now creates 2.6 jobs for every one lost.

As cable was America’s first broadband provider, I welcome the Chairman’s remarks and enthusiasm about how broadband is sparking a renaissance in America’s economy.  But the irony of the entire speech is that not a single broadband company was even mentioned nor did we hear about the millions of jobs created by broadband providers which have built the networks that are the “indispensible infrastructure for America in the 21st Century.”

Sure, it’s to more fun talk about garage start-ups or cake delivery success stories, but let’s not forget who brought us to the dance.  Broadband is not some mystical force of nature. Broadband is the result of hard work and private investment, first from the cable industry and now many others.

The cable industry launched residential broadband service in the late 1990s and after $170 billion in construction and network upgrades, our broadband service is available to 93 percent of U.S. households – more than 123 million homes.  Cable’s broadband networks offer speeds of 5 Mbps or faster to more than 90 percent of U.S. households. Cable is also now providing next-generation wideband service, with speeds of 50 Mbps or more (in some cases, over 100 Mbps) to more than 90 million American homes.

Currently, 45 million customers rely on cable for their broadband Internet connections. As Chairman Genachowski notes, those broadband connections have become indispensible.

I know it’s been 15 years, but it’s important to remember that it was cable that brought broadband to life and gave birth to everything we delight in today.

But we also help impact the economy. Just this past March, we released the latest study by Bortz Media and Sports Group, Inc. on the economic impact of the cable industry. The study found that the U.S. cable industry supports nearly 1.8 million jobs representing gross economic output amounting to more than $251 billion.

Since 2002, direct and indirect employment attributable to the cable industry has increased by 638,000 jobs.  The industry added 4,700 jobs over the last three years at a time when the U.S. economy’s net loss of jobs was more than seven million.

We deployed broadband first; we offer some of the fastest speeds in the marketplace; we help keep American employed. When you think of the economic impact of broadband, don’t forget the critical role that cable has played.

  • Brett Glass

    With all due respect for the cable industry, it was not the first to provide broadband. I started the first WISP, or terrestrial wireless Internet service provider, in 1992, with initial speeds of 2 Mbps.