Why Some U.S. Citizens Still Can't Get Broadband - InformationWeek

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Commentary
2/15/2007
02:47 PM
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Why Some U.S. Citizens Still Can't Get Broadband

Over the past few decades, the citizens of these United States have had to become used to the fact that, when it comes to technology, we are falling behind. Our cars, TVs, phones, PCs, and other gadgets are more likely to come from an Asian or European factory than from a U.S. facility -- and let's not even talk about who is doing the tech support for our computers. Now it looks like we can't even keep up with Internet access.

Over the past few decades, the citizens of these United States have had to become used to the fact that, when it comes to technology, we are falling behind. Our cars, TVs, phones, PCs, and other gadgets are more likely to come from an Asian or European factory than from a U.S. facility -- and let's not even talk about who is doing the tech support for our computers. Now it looks like we can't even keep up with Internet access.According to a startling article by Richard Hoffman entitled When It Comes To Broadband, U.S. Plays Follow The Leader, broadband coverage in the U.S. -- when measured by per capita penetration -- has fallen behind such countries as China, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Canada. If you live in a rural area, you are less likely to have access to broadband; and wherever you live, you are going to be paying more for it than your equivalent in other nations.

Why? Because large telecommunications companies want to invest their dollars where they'll get the most return on investment, so if you live in an area where it's not profitable to supply broadband, you're out of luck. And those who do live in a region where broadband is available will find that there is very little competition among suppliers -- in fact, most of us have a choice between a single DSL supplier and a single cable supplier. Now, this may not be an issue for, say, Verizon or Time-Warner, but it does mean that the U.S. is falling behind other nations in making sure its citizens have access to the Internet.

I'm lucky. I live in an urban area where broadband connections are available and fairly reasonably priced. However, I know at least one writer who has had to deal with inconsistent satellite service for years because he lives in a rural area of the country. I've gotten e-mails from others who reported that their local governments were trying to find some way to get service to residents. (If they can -- according to Hoffman's article, lobbying by telecommunications firms can stop a state initiative in its tracks.)

In the middle of the 20th century, the telephone went from being a luxury item to a necessity. Today, a broadband connection to the Internet is making the same transition -- but the U.S. may not be ready for it.

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