I received a message this past week calling my attention to the infographic at the left (click on the infographic to see a full size version, or go directly to it at this link) Note that the comparisons of South Korea with the U.S. are on the top quarter or so of the graphic, followed by U.S.-specific information.
This information prompted me to check Akamai's latest State of the Internet quarterly report, for the third quarter of 2012. It shows that Korea continues to lead the world in its average measured connection speed to the internet, at 14.7 Mbps, followed by Japan and Hong Kong at 10.5 and 9.0 Mbps respectively. South Korea is also the world leader in what Akamai calls "High Broadband" with 52% of all connections at a speed greater than 10 Mbps, compared with only 18% of such connections in the United States.
When it comes to internet connections, whether fixed or mobile, speed matters. However, high speed broadband networks do not simply appear overnight. Indeed, the building of these new networks is a large, long-term construction project that requires massive funding, planning and leadership. The larger lesson from this infographic, along with considerable recent research and discussion in policy circles, is that the liberal, U.S. approach to broadband, "let the market and private sector handle it" doesn't seem to work well, when compared with the government-led, long-term ICT policy planning in South Korea.
I've been working over the past several weeks on revision of a conference paper with a Korean colleague that examines the role of government leadership in the ICT sector, so this infographic was a timely reminder that policies and plans, or the lack thereof, ultimately affect the marketplace and consumers. It also reminded me to appreciate the gigabit network at KAIST and the high download speeds we enjoy here in the Daedok Innopolis. While Kansas City, Austin Texas and Provo Utah will soon get similar speeds courtesy of Google, over here in South Korea the entire nation will very soon be enjoying a gigabit network.