WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

Discussion in 'Freedom of Expression' started by moarxenu, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. moarxenu Member

    WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    Great article in the Wall Street Journal:

    Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere - Why the U.S. lags in Internet speed by Gordon L. Crovitz.


    By one estimate, the lowest monthly price per standard unit of millions of bits per second is nearly $3 in the U.S., versus about 13 cents in Japan and 33 cents in France.
    From the article:

    In Japan, wireless technology works so well that teenagers draft novels on their cellphones. People in Hong Kong take it for granted that they can check their BlackBerrys from underground in the city's subway cars. Even in France, consumers have more choices for broadband service than in the U.S.
    The Internet may have been developed in the U.S., but the country now ranks 15th in the world for broadband penetration. For those who do have access to broadband, the average speed is a crawl, moving bits at a speed roughly one-tenth that of top-ranked Japan. This means a movie that can be downloaded in a couple of seconds in Japan takes half an hour in the U.S. The BMW 7 series comes equipped with Internet access in Germany, but not in the U.S.

    So those of us otherwise wary of how wisely the stimulus package will be spent were happy to suspend disbelief when Congress invited ideas on how to upgrade broadband. Maybe there are shovel-ready programs to bring broadband to communities that private providers have not yet reached, and to upgrade the speed of accessing the Web. These goals sound like the digital-era version of Eisenhower's interstate highway projects, this time bringing Americans as consumers and businesspeople closer together on a faster information highway.


    The result was a relatively paltry $6 billion for broadband in the House bill and $9 billion in the Senate, with each bill micromanaging the spending differently. The bills include different standards, speeds and other requirements for providers that would use the public funds. This may balance competing interests among cable, telecom and local phone companies, but it doesn't address the underlying problems of too few providers delivering too few options to consumers.

    Techies may be surprised by how these funds would be dispersed. The House would give the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service control over half the grants and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration control of the other half. Tax credits would have been a faster way to make a difference than government agencies dividing spoils across the country.

    The House bill also calls for "open access." This phrase can include hugely controversial topics such as net neutrality, which in its most radical version would bar providers from charging different amounts for different kinds of broadband content. Now that video, conferencing and other heavy-bandwidth applications are growing in popularity, price needs to be one tool for allocating scarce resources. Analysts at Medley Global Advisors warn that if these provisions remain in the bill, "it will keep most broadband providers out of the applicant pool" for the funds intended specifically for them.

    More fundamentally, nothing in the legislation would address the key reason that the U.S. lags so far behind other countries. This is that there is an effective broadband duopoly in the U.S., with most communities able to choose only between one cable company and one telecom carrier. It's this lack of competition, blessed by national, state and local politicians, that keeps prices up and services down.
    In contrast, most other advanced countries have numerous providers, using many technologies, competing for consumers. A recent report by the Pew Research Center entitled "Stimulating Broadband: If Obama Builds It, Will They Log On?" concluded that for many people, the answer is no, often due to high monthly prices. By one estimate, the lowest monthly price per standard unit of millions of bits per second is nearly $3 in the U.S., versus about 13 cents in Japan and 33 cents in France.
    We're told that we now live in an era of more regulation and more government spending, but neither approach is how problems get solved in technology. Government mandates on how networks should be operated and subsidies administered by USDA aren't going to ensure broadband access, make connections faster, or lower prices.
    What we need to get the U.S. back into the top ranks of wired countries is more competition, not taxpayer handouts. That would be a real stimulus.
  2. Oswald2001 Member

    Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    The state of the Internet in the US in shameful.

    I just got Verizon FIOS that was touted at an 'amazing' 10M/sec.

    Seoul, Korea has had 100M/sec. for 10 or 15 years.

    Hopefully, Obama is more awake than his predecessors and will mandate some Internet stimulus.

    There is no reason in the world why the US shouldn't have 1-10 GIGS/sec. as the standard broadband rate today.

    It is one of the most effective economic stimulus approaches that can be taken.

    It will change everything.

    We are waaaaaay behind were we should be.

    I think it's criminal.
  3. Anon Char Member

    Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    We need moar tubes cap'n!
  4. A.Non Hubbard Member

    Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    Broadband is an infrastructure issue and not a commercial one, and one of the main reasons government as a concept even exists is to provide and maintain an infrastructure. Leaving broadband technology up to telecom corporations as has been the norm makes as much sense as leaving road construction and maintenance up to Ford and GM.
  5. Oswald2001 Member

    Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere


    I was surprised when the government mandated the switch to digital TV. Of course, it is the correct way to go...that's why it surprised me.

    The US infrastructure should be the best in the world. Business would prosper.

    The Internet is every bit as valuable and critical as the highway system.

    I find it hard to believe that so few people realize this.

    The Telecoms were given BILLIONS of dollars worth of tax cuts and incentives 10-20 years ago in order to build out high speed broadband Internet.

    Basically, the Telecoms kept the money and did very very little.

    There is dark (read that 'unlit') fiber in the ground in Southern California that has sat for 20 years unused.

    I watched them put it in the ground.
  6. LRonAnon Member

    Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    Just think where we'ld be if Al Gore didn't get distracted by global warming.
  7. Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    An Inconvenient Slideshow?

    Tagline: He wanted to show you 600 slides about why the Internet is too slow, but he couldn't download it in time.
  8. Dubber Member

    Re: WSJ: Congress Approves Broadband to Nowhere

    If I wanted to live in a country with an extreme technology fetish, I'd move to Japan already.

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