Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it."

As I've pointed out in the past, the most recent figures show that of those Americans with high-speed broadband service, 99.6% receive that service from either their local phone company or their local cable company. Many have only one choice of broadband provider, and still others have none at all.

It's no secret that American consumers would benefit greatly from more competition for high-speed Internet access. Just take a look at the Japanese.

Yesterday's Washington Post reports that Japan has some of the fastest Internet connections in the world -- up to 30 times as fast as those in the United States. As the Post put it, "Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it." Accelerating broadband speeds in Japan, South Korea, and most of Europe are "pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States."

The folks at the Save the Internet blog explained why, noting that "less than a decade ago, DSL service in Japan was slower and pricier than in the United States. So the Japanese government mandated open access policies that forced the telephone monopoly to share its wires at wholesale rates with new competitors. The result: a broadband explosion. Not only did DSL get faster and cheaper in Japan, but the new competition actually forced the creaky old phone monopoly to innovate."

Save the Internet Blog also reported on Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor's recent public hearing on the state of broadband in Arkansas, which was attended by FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps:

"While some have protested the international broadband penetration rankings," Adelstein said, alluding to some of his colleagues at the Commission, "the fact is the U.S. has dropped year-after-year. This downward trend and the lack of broadband value illustrate the sobering point that when it comes to giving our citizens affordable access to state-of the-art communications, the U.S. has fallen behind its global competitors."

Copps called the lack of a national broadband policy "tantamount to playing Russian roulette with our future."

"Each and every citizen of this great country should have access to the wonders of communications," Copps said. "I'm not talking about doing all these people some kind of feel-good, do-gooder favor by including them. I'm talking about doing America a favor. I'm talking about making certain our citizens can compete here at home and around the world with those who are already using broadband in all aspects of their lives."

We hope policymakers take a careful look at exactly what is now happening overseas, why, and then draw the right conclusions about the steps necessary to bring the benefits of real broadband competition and innovation to all Americans.


John D Giotta said...

Doubtful with the behavior towards technology. Its no different than the Ma Bell days, only nowadays elected officials care less about improvements and more about their wallets.

Ian Danforth said...

A faster internet benefits us all, however Mr. Whitt's argument takes us down a dangerous and discredited path.

Competition is not the point.

"[T]he U.S. has fallen behind its global competitors."

Arguments like this reek of Cold War mentality. The internet is not a weapon with international reach, it is a unifying medium enabling us to confront human challenges rather than national or corporate ones.

If Japan leads the pack, we catch up, not to beat them, but to aid them toward mutual goals. Petty fear of lost status and hurt pride are insufficient to this task.

It is the brilliant promise of the internet and Google's own mission statement which demands we call not for a competition but a recognition of partnership between our nation and all who innovate.

As we call for action from Washington and the boardrooms of AT&T and Comcast let's remember that every member of those bodies has something at stake here.

Just as we do, they know someone who is dying of a disease being furiously researched around the globe. Just as we do, they know someone who can't afford a top flight college education. Just as we do, they know that the faster our tools of communication and the broader our choice of tools the faster we get these problems solved.

That's what the internet provides, and that is why we fight this fight.

JGP said...

I think Google is DEAD WRONG on these public policy points. What would speed innovation in broadband access, would be deregulation of the current providers. There are MANY ways to get broadband into the home: cable, DSL, WiFi/Wimax, Satellite, electrical system, and probably a few we haven't thought about, because broadband access doesn't make much money for the CURRENT players. The problem with broadband, is that no one is making a ton of money doing it. If Time Warner were absolutely gouging its users, the VC industry would fund a cheaper more efficient way of getting broadband.
You don't believe it? What do you think the "internet bubble" of 1997-2001 was all about?

The cable companies are doing the best making some money in broadband, and this is why you see Verizon and AT&T investing the most cash into alternative broadband solutions. If you use ignorant politicians (they spend all their money figuring out how to get re-elected, not figuring out how to help constituents) to derail the profits Verizon and AT&T can make from their investments (something Google espouses), then you effectively kill entreprenuers desire to invest money into broadband access of the future. Nice going Google!

Google's public policy is horrendous, self-serving, and worst of all, appeals to people's sense of entitlement. Broadband is a priviledge, not a right.

Philip Shropshire said...

If Broadband isn't a right, then it should be. People without it will lose out in the future. Broadband is the "book" of the present and the future. Right now Europe and Japan have better "books". Of course, perhaps that's why they have smarter and healthier countries.

I think Google is to be commended for what they're doing. Furthermore, even if they can't win the bandwidth with bids I would hope they would consider other options such as wi max, sat coverage, those broadband blimps that can never get off of the ground...don't give up. Would probably cost less than what you're bidding anyway....

Philip Shropshire

Philip Shropshire said...

I might also add that the reason why Japan and Europe have better internets is that they control their corporations. If you define deregulation as the state having no control over multinationals, whether its shipping off American jobs or ditching must carry (which built the internet. It clearly worked...), then you have deregulation. And duopoly. There's also another word for when corporations run everything and that's called fascism.

Philip Shropshire

JamesC said...

The internet wasn't actually invented by Americans. It was invented by the British (London)-born Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Please correct your mistakes in this blog post.

Alfredo said...

"The internet wasn't actually invented by Americans. It was invented by the British (London)-born Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Please correct your mistakes in this blog post." Please check , basically Americans "invented" the internet, and Tim Berners-Lee "invented" the web.

James said...

Dear Google - if it WASN'T for an open internet in the first wouldn't be &*(#^!! GOOGLE!! F>off.