Yesterday the World Wide Web Foundation, headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (a/k/a inventor of the World Wide Web), released a new Web Index which ranks the United States as #2 in the world in its progress and use of the Web, just behind Sweden. The strong ranking of the U.S. in this index is an accurate representation of the vibrant state of the Internet in our country. Unlike other studies, which often rank countries based on a single data point (such as broadband subscribers per 100 residents or average download speed), the Web Index rankings are based on 81 separate indicators. The report considers not only the reach and speed of infrastructure, but other critical factors like education and government support (or interference) with use of the Web. Those critics who constantly bemoan the state of U.S. broadband should take a close look at the study to see all the things we are doing right as a country.
While the Web Index confirms that the Internet is thriving in the U.S., it also identifies areas for improvement. Perhaps most importantly, the report highlights that the U.S. ranks well behind many of our peers in terms of computer ownership. The importance of computer ownership was highlighted in another recent report by the Leichtman Research Group which found that almost 90% of homes with computers have signed up for broadband. Consequently, for broadband penetration to increase in any meaningful way, we must develop programs that focus not only on broadband access, but also on computer ownership and digital literacy. Fortunately, programs like the FCC’s Connect2Compete initiative are working on this very problem.