Friday, March 20, 2009

Speed Matters--I

After reading today's report in Reuters, I think I'm going to have several more posts on the topic of broadband internet speed, so just consider this the first in a forthcoming series.  Not surprisingly, some telecoms companies in the United States want no set internet speeds or targets in that portion of the economic stimulus devoted to broadband internet.   From the public discussion of broadband internet here in Korea and in the United States, it almost seems that the two countries are on two different planets.

  • In February the Korean government announced that it would build an internet infrastructure capable of providing most of the population with 1 gigabyte per second speeds.
  • The ITU, the OECD and other international organizations have long ago concluded that broadband internet is a critical infrastructure for development and for advanced economies.
  • Telecom companies vying for $7.2 billion in broadband funds included in President Obama's economic stimulus plan urged regulators not to mandate a super-fast Internet speed as a criterion for winning the money.
In the United States, some of the telecoms companies are still arguing that internet speeds should be set by the market.  This despite the fact that the market appears to have failed over the past 15 years in the U.S., at least when it comes to providing widespread access to broadband internet.  On a visit to Minneapolis-St. Paul in January of this year, I was surprised to see that one company is still actively promoting its dial-up internet access on a cost-basis, at only $9.95 per month.
Broadband internet service today is what plain old telephone service was a few decades back.  If the U.S. government does not establish goals for the provision of internet service at modern, competitive speeds, who will?   From the sound of today's discussions in the U.S., it will certainly not be the telecommunications companies.

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