If you want a fast and cheap Internet connection, you can have it, but not in the U.S.

May 25, 2007 | By | 10 Replies More

These stats are mind-boggling.  The U.S. is not a good place to have access to a fast or reasonably priced Internet connection:

The average broadband download speed in the US is only 1.9 megabits per second, compared to 61 Mbps in Japan, 45 Mbps in South Korea, 18 Mbps in Sweden, 17 Mpbs in France, and 7 Mbps in Canada, according to the Communication Workers of America.

CWA President Larry Cohen testified before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, in support of a discussion draft of the Broadband Census of America Act.

“Good data is the foundation of good policy,” Cohen said. “We desperately need a national Internet policy to reverse the fact that our nation – the country that invented the Internet – has fallen to 16th in the world in broadband adoption.”

“Equally disturbing, Americans pay more for slower connection speeds than people in many other countries,” he added.

According to statistics provided by CWA 80 percent of households in Japan can connect to a fiber network at a speed of 100 megabits per second. This is 30 times the average speed of a US cable modem or DSL connection, at roughly the same cost.

Cohen pointed out that the average upload speed was in the US was only 371 kilobits per second, not nearly enough to send quality medical information over the Internet.

What should we do about this broadband problem in the U.S.”  Consider the solutions offered in this well-reasoned article by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:  “Localizing the Internet:  Five Ways Public Ownership Solves the U.S. Broadband Problem.”  Here are the basic points the long article makes:

1. High-speed information networks are essential public infrastructure.
2. Public ownership ensures competition.
3. Publicly owned networks can generate significant revenue.
4. Public ownership can ensure universal access and
5. Public ownership can ensure non-discriminatory networks [this refers to net neutrality].


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (10)

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  1. I guess, you could complain about a couple of things in the US, which are better in other countries. I remember taking the bus to San Diego once. I had a chat with the busdriver who bitched a bit about all the German/European (?) tourists who made fun of old power poles sticking out of the ground and the desolate state of the roads. He chuckled and said, "They have everything new there, underground power supply lines, great new roads, etc. because we bombed them during WWII." He was a fun guy. 😀 He also thought it was damn fun to put up these signs in his lawn to support the Democrats, while all his neighbors around him were Republicans. 😀

  2. By the way, my computer tells me I have 54,0 MBit/s at the moment. 😀 For your comfort, years ago, I was in the States and it seemed common to have a flatrate. Then I was in Spain and it also seemed common to have a flatrate there. Then *we* had a flatrate.

  3. Actually, I don't think I have that much, hmm. My connection is ok, but not super super fast.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    How fast is fast enough? I was probably the first DSL customer in my neighborhood back in 1999. I needed it because my job required me to transfer 50Mb files on a regular basis. Via dial-up, this took way too many hours. Mainly, it was frustrating when a download failed after a couple of hours, and I had to start over.

    Eight years later, I still occasionally do 200Mb downloads at the original DSL speed. I don't yet see a need to have faster. My downloads are not usually limited by the DSL pipe, but rather by network latency and server bandwidth limits.

    Eventually, the cable or phone companies will run fiber to the post and Cat-6 (1Gbps) to the home. The technology is there. But my reasonably fast DSL is still running on the 1950's upgrade of the 1920's phone lines that run down my alley. The aluminum and Teflon coaxial cable that was installed for unidirectional T.V. signals in the 1980's is now doing duty for bidirectional data.

    The U.S. may be behind in part because there is the existing infrastructure of wires and cables. Many other countries skipped one or more levels of earlier installation, and had a head start on what is now the standard.

    As for cost, I am paying $20/month for a 24 hour data pipe that is over 3,000 times as fast as my original dial-up Compuserve account in that cost $6/hour in 1985. It's 400 times faster than my first $20/month AOL account in 1994. I can't complain about speed or price. They are continually improving.

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    This is yet one more example of the lost opportunity costs of Bush's moronic decision to invade Iraq. We have already discussed the actual dollar cost (see http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1274), but the real cost is everything Americans gave up to 'buy' the invasion; i.e., the benefits we lost by spending all that money and manpower on an unnecessary invasion instead of investing it in things such as Internet infrastructure, education, healthcare, transportation, energy independence, etc.

    It goes back to Iraq being a domestic issue (see http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1154). While other countries spend their money in sensible, practical investments, America insists on wasting its money on truly idiotic levels of military infrastructure. (U.S. defense spending exceeds that of all other nations on earth, combined. Is America truly concerned that the entire world will unite against it in a war?) This is one reason why America is #1 in defense spending, but not #1 in things such as healthcare (physical or mental), education, aid to the poor, etc. For example, the healthy life expectancy in America is equal to that of Cuba, and is well below that of Italy, Greece and many other countries (see, World Health Organization statistics database). Likewise, Cuba, and even Poland, have lower rates of infant mortality. In education, even Indonesia has a higher rate of primary school enrollment (for both men and women) than does America. George Bush might oppose abortion, but his so-called "culture of life" certainly doesn't put its money where its mouth is.

    Such downstream expenses will be the real cost of Bush's decision to invade Iraq: the children who die for lack of adequate healthcare, the elderly who live in poverty because Bush has gutted Social Security, the business that lose money to global competitors who have faster, cheaper Internet access, etc. This is one reason why a moron like George W., can make so many bad decisions and still have considerable popular support: because the public doesn't understand the real costs of his mistakes. Fast, cheap Internet service is just one of the many, many such costs.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: our T1 connection at work runs videos quite well most of the time, but not at times of peak usage, when everything gums up. Videos start and stop and even non-video sites are noticably slow. ISP are notorious for overselling their capacity with regard to peak usage times.

    Here's another thing: Web 2.0 means that citizens should be able to broadcast their own radio and video from their homes. That's not going to happen with the pathetic upload speeds currently available to most DSL customers. It can be done a lot better than it's being done.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    Why is it important to download or upload high-bandwidth content in real time? Download the content, then view it. If you must have it Right Now, then most providers will sell you a higher bandwidth package.

    Web2.0 is the latest name for a set of protocols that were specified in the late 1990's. I remember when they called it I2K (for Internet2000). Part of the roadblock is the IPv6 change, wherein addressing changes from 4 bytes to 8, going from 4 billion direct IP addresses to 16 quintillion (one address for each of 6 billion appliances for each man, woman, and child on the planet).

    As for your T1, that is only 1.5Mbps. DSL promises me a minimum of 1/3Mbps, but usually delivers more. If you have 4 users sharing your T1, then each has a DSL experience, at best. How good is your firewall? This is a typical bottleneck on a fast pipe.

    A note about broadcasting: The old way required one transmitter to send one data set (e.g: "I Love Lucy") to all the receivers in range. The internet requires the sender (or intermediaries) to produce a separate copy of the data set for each receiver! If you are broadcasting TV quality video for 1 hour, that is about 2GB of data. If you are sending it to 15,000 viewers, that is 15 terabytes navigating the web (call it 7,000 complete copies of the Encyclopaedia Britannica including images).

    Take a breath and watch Every O/S Sucks

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    The Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has introduced legislation to improve the quality of broadband data collected across the United States. The "Broadband Data Improvement Act" (S. 1492) would direct federal agencies to measure the availability, speed and value of U.S. broadband and authorize funding for state initiatives that improve the availability and accessibility of high-speed Internet services. http://www.freepress.net/press/release.php?id=239

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's more on the sad state of broadband in the U.S. The bottom line is that there is very little competition to keep things state of the art. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19389299/site/newswee

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    The United States is starting to look like a slowpoke on the Internet. Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaper broadband connections, and more of their population connected to them.

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