Regulated broadband necessary for the U.S. to progress?

There might be actually be a need to more closely watch, even regulate broadband. Then again, there might not. That's how confusing the space is for those who make a living watching it, even as President Obama throws his support behind an FCC plan that might actually enforce a degree of regulation on the unregulated industry.

"There are a lot of different measures that float around, so people might pick a number that makes their case and not look at numbers that might suggest a somewhat different story," an industry watcher told NPR.

One measure that seems to have grabbed the feds' attention is Consumer Union's report that 96 percent of Americans can only get broadband from two or fewer companies. To an extent, even that's a half-full/half-empty statistic because those consumers can get broadband but they might be paying more because of a lack of competition.

A group of industry providers crossing all strata of competition have banded together to make things look a little better and to offer up support for low income and underprivileged users, but that effort and others like it has been viewed with a jaundiced eye by the likes of Free Press, whose research director stated bluntly: "For the providers to try to say that there's not a problem, it's merely just a smokescreen."

"Merely just," indeed.

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