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July 22, 2010 9:23 AM

The Rest Of The World Rules Broadband While America Drools

While there's nothing new about lamenting over America's falling in the standings relative to broadband in the rest of the world, I continue to be amazed at how that gap seems to be widening, not just in the capacity and cost of bandwidth customers have access to, but in how quickly other countries are moving forward with real plans to achieve real progress relative to the US.

Here in the US we barely have our first broadband plan. We're still caught up in debates over whether or not we're setting the standard for broadband too high, whether or not government should play any role in the deployment of broadband, and whether or not the agency charged with overseeing our country's communications infrastructure even has the authority to regulate broadband.

Now let's compare that to the rest of the world.

In China, China Telecom and the State Grid Corporation recently signed a strategic framework agreement to promote the deployment of fiber-to-the-home. While China obviously has a different political reality to work within, it's almost unfathomable to imagine America's major telecom and utility players coming together on an agreement to work together on deploying large scale fiber.

In Australia, there was the recent news that the federal government is going to buy and retire Telstra's copper network to make way for its fiber network. Yet here in the US we've got politicians protecting copper and refusing to buy in to a fiber-powered future. Can you imagine the US buying up all of AT&T; and Verizon's copper plant? Not in a million years.

And in Japan the government recently declared the goal of a fiber pipe to every home by 2015. Of course Japan has a much smaller country with a much higher density, but notice how they set the goal of fiber to EVERY home, not just fiber to most homes. Yet here in the US, our government has no problem setting lower standards for its rural residents creating second class digital citizens.

What these stories highlight is that the gap between America's broadband infrastructure and the rest of the world isn't just an academic exercise. It's real, it's widening, and if we as a country can't get past our navel-gazing and excuse-making then we're going to end up in a position whereby our country's trying to compete in a global digital economy with 20th century infrastructure while countries like China, Japan, and Australia equip their innovators with 21st century networks.

If we feel any pride as a nation, if we have any sense about what our economic future can and should look like, then we need to make sure these stories about where the rest of the world's heading aren't swept underneath the carpet.

The time to act is now. The rest of the world realizes this and is moving forward full steam ahead. The question is when will America wake up and start getting serious about our international competitiveness as a whole rather than focusing almost all of our attention on how do we get every American connected to yesterday's networks.

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Comments (1)

The density argument is a red herring anyway. There are several cities in the US more dense than Hong Kong, yet none of them has any kind of comparable broadband. It's just an excuse to not deploy services and it doesn't hold up to any kind of serious scrutiny.

Posted by Jesse Harris on July 22, 2010 10:53 AM

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