Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why are our "high speed" connections so slow?

Paul Krugman's column last week explains why, and illustrates why Lafayette Utilities had such a hard time getting approval for its "fiber to the home" program.

The numbers are startling. As recently as 2001, the percentage of the population with high-speed access in Japan and Germany was only half that in the United States. In France it was less than a quarter. By the end of 2006, however, all three countries had more broadband subscribers per 100 people than we did.

Even more striking is the fact that our “high speed” connections are painfully slow by other countries’ standards. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, French broadband connections are, on average, more than three times as fast as ours. Japanese connections are a dozen times faster. Oh, and access is much cheaper in both countries than it is here.

As a result, we’re lagging in new applications of the Internet that depend on high speed. France leads the world in the number of subscribers to Internet TV; the United States isn’t even in the top 10.

What happened to America’s Internet lead? Bad policy. Specifically, the United States made the same mistake in Internet policy that California made in energy policy: it forgot — or was persuaded by special interests to ignore — the reality that sometimes you can’t have effective market competition without effective regulation.

Krugman is right. California thought that the so-called "free market" would solve it's energy woes. Instead, the energy companies, and Enron especially, made damn sure that the market was anything but free. Telecom companies have a similar stranglehold on the internet. In Lafayette, Bellsouth -- now AT&T --fought tooth and claw to keep it that way. They are just as willing to screw over "Grandma Millie" as Enron was.

No comments: