Monday, May 12, 2008

US dropping in Broadband

One of the ironies of the current broadband situation in the US is that staunch free marketeers defend the status quo even though the result of their views has been duopoly and high prices. Meanwhile, other countries (including those with a reputation in some quarters for "socialism") have taken aggressive steps to create a robust, competitive, consumer-friendly marketplace with the help of regulation and national investment.

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Critics, it's time to stop the quibbling: the data collection practices that show the US dropping year-over-year in all sorts of broadband metrics from uptake to price per megabit might not prove solid enough to trust with your life, but we're out of good reasons to doubt their general meaning.

On March 26, 2004, George Bush talked up the importance of broadband. "This country needs a national goal for... the spread of broadband technology," he said. "We ought to have... universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to [their] broadband carrier."

But multiple reports show that countries around the world are beating us at broadband, and we're putting our economy and technological leadership at risk through a truly stunning failure to cast a national vision. Other countries are doing better at this, and they're doing it through a combination of financing, fear (competition), and federal mandates.

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