US Lagging Behind In Broadband

written by Harry - Leave a reply

5/23/2011 – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a report on Friday that revealed the embarrassing state of America’s broadband facilities. According to research, the United States has only a 63 percent broadband adoption rate lagging behind countries such as the United Kingdom, South Korea and Iceland. It also identified that 26 million Americans still live without access to broadband internet.

In addition to this, Americans that are receiving broadband coverage still do not receive speeds comparable with other countries. When measured, 8 million broadband subscribers in New York found got, on average, download speeds of 11.7 Mbps. This is in contrast against the leading city, Seoul in South Korea, were users were receiving an average of 35.8 Mbps.

It is a fact that having widespread access to faster broadband speeds is critical to America’s future as the world’s economic leader. Such is it’s importance that the Obama Administration has made universal access to and the adoption of 21st Century broadband for all citizens a top priority. They rightly view it as a key driver towards economic recovery and comparative advantage. Faster internet makes a country more productive, competitive on a global scale and improves the efficiency of local and national services.

So why then, considering the importance of this utility, does Congress purposefully stifle their own country’s technological development?

Take North Carolina’s Gov. Bev Perdue for example. She recently failed to sign or veto a bill that restricts community municipal broadband developments in her state. By failing to take action of any kind, the law is passed by default.

The reason certain communities would want to build their own high-speed internet networks is simple, no one else will. There are thousands of rural areas nationwide that are not receiving broadband internet services because the large ISPs simply don’t feel it is profitable to build them there. If a community can build up enough funding to do it themselves then they can effectively put in the most recent technologies and receive speeds vastly superior to their city cousins. But this is no longer an option. By the bill being activated, it now makes it illegal for any communities to build their own broadband networks.

For the major ISPs, this represents a major coup.

If rural communities were given the right to start building their own networks, it effectively creates a huge threat to the ISPs. Competition would be popping up all over the place. Small communities could start building networks that far out-perform commercially available services and they’d do it at a significantly cheaper cost to the residents. After a while, those living in urban areas will start asking questions, and this would be bad news for the corporations. Naturally, all the large ISPs were supporters of the bill being passed.

What really irks me about this story, however, is how Gov. Perdue delivered her reason for not signing the bill with a straight face. In the face of it, her reasons seem well-intentioned:

“There is a need to establish rules to prevent cities and towns from having an unfair advantage over providers in the private sector. My concern with House Bill 129 is that the restrictions the General Assembly has imposed on cities and towns who want to offer broadband services may have the effect of decreasing the number of choices available to their citizens.”

If the number of choices available to citizens were slower speeds, pricey subscriptions and inferior customer service, I’m pretty sure people won’t mind. Her definitive lack of action, however, now isolates and stifle those people living outside what major ISPs refer to as ‘the profit zone’.

And while in her statement Gov. Bev suggested that the General Assembly revisit the issue and adopt rules that promote fairness for all, perhaps there is another reason for her ‘well-intentioned’ lack of action. The Charlotte News Observer recently unveiled information that states Perdue’s 2008 campaign received substantial funds from a well known benefactor – Time Warner Cable. That’s right, one of the main companies lobbying to get the bill passed.

Nice one Bev.

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