“We’re now in the middle of the pack of developed countries,” said Dave Burstein, telecom gadfly and the editor of the DSL Prime newsletter, during a sometimes tense debate at the Columbia Business School’s Institute for Tele-Information. Burstein says the U.S. is lagging because of low levels of investment by the big telecom companies and regulatory failure.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEW YORK – The United States is starting to look like a slowpoke on the Internet. Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaper broadband connections, and more of their population connected to them. What’s less clear is how badly the country that gave birth to the Internet is doing, and whether the government needs to step in and do something about it. The Bush administration has tried to foster broadband adoption with a hands-off approach. If that’s seen as a failure by the next administration, the policy may change. In a move to get a clearer picture of where the U.S. stands, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services – including the types, advertised speeds and actual number of subscribers – available to households and businesses across the nation. The bill, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is intended to provide policy makers with improved data so they can better use grants and subsidies to target areas lacking high-speed Internet access. He said in a statement last week that promoting broadband would help spur job growth, access to health care and education and promote innovation among other benefits. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.The inventory wouldn’t cover other countries, but a cursory look shows the U.S. lagging behind at least some of them. In South Korea, for instance, the average apartment can get an Internet connection that’s 15 times faster than a typical U.S. connection. In Paris, a “triple play” of TV, phone and broadband service costs less than half of what it does in the U.S. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – a 30-member club of nations – compiles the most often cited international comparison. It puts the U.S. at 15th place for broadband lines per person in 2006, down from No. 4 in 2001. The OECD numbers have been vigorously attacked by anti-regulation think tanks for making the U.S. look exceedingly bad. They point out that the OECD is not very open about how it compiles the data. It doesn’t count people who have access to the Internet at work, or students who have access in their dorms. “We would never base other kinds of policy on that kind of data,” said Scott Wallsten, director of communications policy studies at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank that favors deregulation over government intervention. But the OECD numbers are in line with other international measures. Figures from the British research firm Point-Topic Ltd. put the U.S., with 55 percent of its households connected, in 17th place for adoption rates at the end of June (excluding some very small countries and territories like Macau and Hong Kong).