My brother Thane just sent out a Facebook post with a link to an eye-opening article from Slate, decrying the sorry state of broadband internet service in the US. http://www.slate.com/id/2252141/ . It seems that we have slipped from first place to somewhere in the mid-teens in just over a decade, behind Korea, Japan, Canada, and even Taiwan and Sweden (who both offer broadband access for under $20 per month!). To remedy this, the FCC has a strategy in place, The National Broadband Plan, which delineates a set of goals to be met by 2020. Problem is, those goals have already been met and surpassed by several other countries, and more will be added to the list by the close of 2010. As Slate writers Sascha Meinrath and James Losey rather pithily point out, it is “the equivalent of the United States entering the Grand Prix with the goal of finishing last.” They go on to carp about deceptive advertising on the part of the providers: “We’d never buy a package of ‘up to a dozen eggs’ at the supermarket, so why are broadband providers allowed to systematically promise more than they deliver?” Anecdotally, I can add my two-cents’ worth: internet service where I live in Japan is far faster than any I have ever experienced stateside, and it costs about $25/month for unlimited usage.
Of all the areas in which it is possible to fall behind, this is one that America strongly needs to avoid, as the instant exchange of information grows more critical with each passing day. And, at the end of that day, the winners will be determined by the quickest reaction times to an ever-changing set of circumstances and challenges. The technology is in place; all that is needed now is a lot of loud yelling at the internet service providers to step up their game!