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.