Monday, February 20, 2006

Long Overdue Story

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a story today that my friend Austin was talking about 3.5 years ago... how U.S. telecommunication and internet on-ramping is lagging farther and farther behind our Asian and European friends.

"High speed" connections in the states are between 1 and 4 megabits per second (Mbps). A megabit is 1/8th of a megabyte. Japan, South Korea, and third-wold-giant China all have connections of approximately 100 Mbps avialable to nearly all internet subscribers--and for costs of less than $20 a month. I'll speak from experience--internet in my apartment in China was cheaper and faster than my internet here in D.C.

The article continues to say that European "high speed" rates are about 20 Mbps.

So the question is, why is America, with all of our great private investment lagging behind? Why hasn't American creativity, ingenuity, and better market conditions allowed us to take advantage of what a (2003) Brookings Institution report suggests could be 1.2 million jobs and $1 trillion. A slightly updated version was released in Sept. 2003.

One of the first conversations I had about technology with Austin in the late summer/early fall of 2002 was about how the U.S. was starting to fall far behind the rest of the world in high speed availability. The fact it has taken almost 3 years for these reports to make it into the press--even in a state that is as dependant on high-tech and rapid information as Minnesota (the state that has brought you 3M, Cargill, Northwest Airlines, Honeywell, Wells Fargo, and The St. Paul) suggests that maybe the U.S. isn't paying as much attention to the needs of it's infratstructure and information economy as we should be.

Sweden-Canada in the gold medal women's hockey game is on...so this is getting cut off now.

1 comment:

tegwarrior said...

A few quick 'reasons':

The tech bubble which burst in 2000. And the investment capitalists who lost their shirts in the process. They were building on the 'Field of Dreams' theory (build it, they will come). I bet there's some caution out there as a result.

We're not saving anything in this country anyway, how the hell are we supposed to invest?

Why invest in risky broadband lines when you could make loads flipping housing?

The federal system along with scale- too much space, too little authority.

Frankly, we don't build infrastructure in this country. Not anymore. Not for 20 years- probably more. We better hope this democratic peace idea works- because no country is more short term f'd than we are if we had to rely on our in built capabilities.

Look at our cell phone industry- 3G eventually. Look at our smog hog cars. Look at our grudging embrace of efficient appliances.

Look at the concept of net neutrality that our broadband providers are kicking around. Why build a better network when content providers are just going to freeload on my network, they say. Why not degrade the service of those who won't pay me extra, they say.

We don't, for reasons which escape me, believe in public ownership of the telecom lines. Too bad, huh.