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February 24, 2011 10:07 AM

America Falls Far Short Of South Korean Ambition

Well here we go, our South Korean friends are at it again, setting the goal of delivering 1Gbps to all of its residents by 2012. By doing this they're raising the bar even higher for what it means to have a globally competitive broadband infrastructure.

While this is far from the first time I've lamented seeing South Korea leave America in its dust bandwidth-wise, because of the release of the National Broadband Map we now have an image that clearly lays out just how severely we're falling short if we want to be an international broadband leader, namely the current deployment of fiber in the US:

us fiber deployment 3.jpg

Notice something missing? Like any widespread fiber deployment?!

The reason this map is so significant is that if you're talking about want to deliver 1Gbps to homes, there's really no technology that can enable that today other than fiber. Cable may be able to get there some day in the future, but it's not there yet and even if it gets there its upload capacity will likely continue to be inadequate and its performance will be underwhelming. DSL will be lucky to hit 100Mbps, and wireless will never be able to reliably deliver that kind of capacity.

Basically, if America wants to deliver 1Gbps service we need fiber, and as is shown by this map we just don't have much fiber deployed yet.

Making this even more frustrating is that because South Korea has focused investment in large-scale fiber deployment, it'll be easy for them to continue raising this bar. It wouldn't surprise me to see them jump to 10Gbps in the next five years, which they can do because fiber can be upgrade easily and almost indefinitely.

On our side of the Pacific, there's no clear path for how we can achieve anything resembling universal access to 1Gbps service. Not just in the next two years to keep up with South Korea but ever. I hate to be pessimistic or fall victim to using too much hyperbole, but just look at this map! We're not just a little behind, even if we got our act together in a big way tomorrow we'd still be trailing South Korea by a decade or more.

Our President and FCC Chairman like talking about the many benefits of broadband and the need for America to have some of the world's best broadband infrastructure, yet they almost never talk about the significance of fiber deployment relative to achieving this infrastructure and realizing all these benefits of broadband.

We must make sure they don't ignore the contrast between South Korea's ambitions and our own underwhelming reality. If we are really serious about wanting to lead rather than follow, then South Korea's 1Gbps announcement combined with this National Broadband Map needs to be the catalyst that lights the fire for America to start getting serious about delivering the broadband infrastructure our innovators need to compete in the global economy.

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