Plugging America’s Broadband Gap

Posted on August 2, 2008  Comments (2)

Plugging America’s Broadband Gap

Martin is concerned about a U.S. broadband gap. Only 60% of American households have speedy Net access. That puts the country in 15th place among developed nations, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. It’s a mighty fall from 2001, when the U.S. ranked fourth.

This is one of a number of facts that those in the USA seem ignorant of: we have a far worse internet and cell phone infrastructure than many countries. Those that think the USA is the leading technology country should be alarmed by such poor performance in a critical area such as internet infrastructure.

There are three basic options for catching up. The government can take the lead, making its own investments in broadband. Second, the government can mandate that existing providers make the service available more widely. Most realistically perhaps, the government can create incentives for private companies to roll out more broadband. That’s what Martin is trying to do. He wants to auction off wireless spectrum and require the winning bidder to provide free broadband throughout the country. The company could make money by selling advertising and advanced services.

The free service wouldn’t be the fastest on the market. The winning bidder would have to offer a minimum speed of 768 kilobits per second to 95% of the country within 10 years. Although that’s technically broadband, it’s about half the speed of today’s average U.S. broadband link.

Still, Martin’s proposal has drawn support because it has the potential to crack what has become a broadband duopoly. In most markets, only one telecom company and one cable provider offer the service. A third alternative with decent speed and big savings off the current $50 monthly average price could spark more competition. The leading contender to win the auction is M2Z Networks, a startup founded by former FCC staffer John Muleta.

The FCC approach is no panacea. It’ll provide competition at the low end of the market and will do nothing to bring the U.S. the blazing speeds common in Korea and Japan.

Related: China Builds a Better InternetInternet Undersea CablesUnderstanding Computers and the Internet

2 Responses to “Plugging America’s Broadband Gap”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Next steps for Google’s Experimental Fiber Network
    March 26th, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

    […] is another great idea from Google. Not only to push forward the much poorer internet connectivity those in the USA have than other countries but it will hopefully lead to some real engineering breakthroughs. And it is a […]

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Fiber to the Home
    July 2nd, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    […] Plugging America’s Broadband Gap – Next steps for Google’s Experimental Fiber Network – Net Neutrality, Policy, […]

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