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Krugman On the Connectivity Power Shift 360

Posted by kdawson
from the bit-of-regulation-in-service-of-competition dept.
In today's NYTimes (registration required), Paul Krugman's op-ed piece lays out in simple terms the statistical power shift in the online economy among Europe, Japan, and the US. This shift has been discussed here for some time, but it's good to see it coming to the attention of a wider audience. Quoting: "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... [W]hen the Bush administration put Michael Powell in charge of the FCC, the digital robber barons were basically set free to do whatever they liked. As a result, there's little competition in U.S. broadband — if you're lucky, you have a choice between the services offered by the local cable monopoly and the local phone monopoly. The price is high and the service is poor, but there's nowhere else to go."
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Krugman On the Connectivity Power Shift

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  • well, (Score:5, Funny)

    by edlinfan (1131341) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:21PM (#19964701)

    The price is high and the service is poor, but there's nowhere else to go.

    How about Europe or Japan?
    • Seems "Troll" translates to "humour impaired moderator".
  • The real question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Todds523 (1053704)
    I wish I could read the article but I would think that if Google's wireless spectrum bid could possibly even the playing field.
    • Re:The real question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:13AM (#19965855)
      Here you go, enjoy. And enjoy the coming take-down notice, /.!

      ---

      There was a time when everyone thought that the Europeans and the Japanese were better at business than we were. In the early 1990s airport bookstores were full of volumes with samurai warriors on their covers, promising to teach you the secrets of Japanese business success. Lester Thurow's 1992 book, ''Head to Head: The Coming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe and America,'' which spent more than six months on the Times best-seller list, predicted that Europe would win.

      Then it all changed, and American despondency turned into triumphalism. Partly this was because the Clinton boom contrasted so sharply with Europe's slow growth and Japan's decade-long slump. Above all, however, our new confidence reflected the rise of the Internet. Jacques Chirac complained that the Internet was an ''Anglo-Saxon network,'' and he had a point -- France, like most of Europe except Scandinavia, lagged far behind the U.S. when it came to getting online.

      What most Americans probably don't know is that over the last few years the situation has totally reversed. As the Internet has evolved -- in particular, as dial-up has given way to broadband connections using DSL, cable and other high-speed links -- it's the United States that has fallen behind.

      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.

      You see, the world may look flat once you're in cyberspace -- but to get there you need to go through a narrow passageway, down your phone line or down your TV cable. And if the companies controlling these passageways can behave like the robber barons of yore, levying whatever tolls they like on those who pass by, commerce suffers.

      America's Internet flourished in the dial-up era because federal regulators didn't let that happen -- they forced local phone companies to act as common carriers, allowing competing service providers to use their lines. Clinton administration officials, including Al Gore and Reed Hundt, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, tried to ensure that this open competition would continue -- but the telecommunications giants sabotaged their efforts, while The Wall Street Journal's editorial page ridiculed them as people with the minds of French bureaucrats.

      And when the Bush administration put Michael Powell in charge of the F.C.C., the digital robber barons were basically set free to do whatever they liked. As a result, there's little competition in U.S. broadband -- if you're lucky, you have a choice between the services offered by the local cable monopoly and the local phone monopoly. The price is high and the service is poor, but there's nowhere else to go.

      Meanwhile, as a recent article in Business Week explains, the real French bureaucrats used judicious regulation to promote competiti
  • Another problem... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amccaf1 (813772) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:24PM (#19964721)
    Another problem is that the population of the United States is much more stretched out than in those other countries (especially, duh, Japan) and therefore harder to physically reach. It's easy to reach the 50% of the population nearest the population centers, harder to reach the 50% that's farther away.

    It's like the problem we had in the US of upgrading television stations to Hi-Def. In Europe, you only have to upgrade two or three transmitters per country. In the US you have hundreds of transmitters dotted throughout the country (not to mention the added trickiness of local ownership of individual local television stations)...
    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:29PM (#19964763) Homepage
      The question is whether these statistics play out within concentrated geographic areas. What about the state of California, or of New York, or of Massachusetts or Washington?

      At times, I wonder if the "spread out America" card gets played a bit too much. Most Americans live in fairly concentrated regions. How much of the difference between US, European and Japanese broadband adoption is really about density?
      • by amccaf1 (813772) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:40PM (#19964851)
        Interesting point, so I pulled a few numbers off of wikipedia...

        In the entire 50 states of the US, the population density is: 31 per square kilometer (172nd in the world).
        California is 83.85 per square kilometer.
        New York (state) is 155.18 per square kilometer.
        Massachusetts is 312.68 per square kilometer.
        Washington State is 34.20 per square kilometer.
        By contrast, Montana is 2.39 per square kilometer.

        Japan is 337/km per square kilometer.
        Germany is 230.9/km per square kilometer.

        What I can't find quickly (and what would be useful) would be to see what percentage of Americans live in or near cities versus their European counterparts. I can't say for certain, but my guess based on the above would be that the number would be significantly less in the United States...

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ population_density [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by uradu (10768)
          I looked up those figures recently from the last census, and while I don't have links right now, around 77% of the US population lives within what is termed metropolitan areas. While the definition of a metro area differs between countries, it is sufficiently similar to distinguish between inhabitants of extended conurbations versus those living out in Shitsville. The trend line looked like the 80% mark would be reached by the end of the decade. So basically around 80% of the US population lives in very sim
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I think you wanted to link to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_selected_citi es_by_population_density [wikipedia.org] You can compare Tokyo's 13,000/km^2 to New Yorks 10,000/km^2, or Munich's 4,200/km^2 with Los Angele's 3,100/km^2 There really is not a large difference between European, Asian, or North American cities. They just have different monopolies and governments ripping them off.
        • by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:07AM (#19966073) Homepage

          California is 83.85 per square kilometer.
          New York (state) is 155.18 per square kilometer.
          Massachusetts is 312.68 per square kilometer.
          Washington State is 34.20 per square kilometer.
          By contrast, Montana is 2.39 per square kilometer.
          Sweden has 20.0
          Finland has 15.5

          Countries which tend to rank among the highest in this regard. If California has four times the population density as well as a much larger population in absolute numbers, I don't really see how this would be a factor against the infrastructure.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ogemaniac (841129)
            But most Fins and Swedes live in concentrated areas, much more so that in the US. Population density very deceptive in this regard. It is not how many people you have per square mile, but rather this average distance to your nearest neighbor. These can lead to quite different conclusions.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Eivind (15695)
              No. Not true. Sweden is only *sligthly* more urbanized than USA (81% versus 77%) and Norway, for example, is actually *less* urbanized than USA at 74%. Urbanization explains something, for some countries. But not the difference between USA and the Nordic countries. (which have similar urbanization, and *lower* population-density)
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Kevin Stevens (227724)
              I just moved from Manhattan, in Battery Park City, which did not exist 30 years ago. I was about a half mile from the old AT&T headquarters, and a large scary skyscraper they own with no windows that is allegedly filled with all of their telecom equipment, as well as being a mere 5 blocks from Wall St and the heart of the financial district. I don't know how many people live in Battery Park City, but my building had about 500 residents alone, and I was surrounded by highrises.

              I now live across the river
        • Yes and no (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @05:59AM (#19967097) Journal
          Well, yes and no.

          1. Densities per whole state can be a bit misleading, because the USA has a ton of farmland or just empty space. The communities you need to connect (first) tend to be a bit more concentrated. Even if you take Montana as an example, I'm willing to bet that even the villages there have a bit more than 2.39 people per square kilometer. (Unless they're all hermits.)

          By comparison, western Europe simply has less empty space to screw up the maths. For example, North Rhine-Westphalia [wikipedia.org] (the heavily industrialized county in the NW of Germany) is almost one contiguous megalopolis spread across a whole state. Not exactly, but almost. You only know that, say, Düsseldorf [wikipedia.org] (land capital city) ended and Duisburg [wikipedia.org] ('nother city next to it) started only because the shields on the highway say so. There's just not that much empty space to screw up the maths.

          2. If population spread was the real problem, then in the USA the major cities should all be on Ethernet, which AFAIK isn't the case. I mean, high population density = good for broadband, right?

          Cities are a lot less dense down here in Germany, and while there isn't as much suburb sprawl (for lack of space and a different culture), houses are rarely higher than 3-4 floors (including ground floor) even in a densely populated area like NRW. The NRW has 18 million inhabitants spread over 34,083 square kilometres, which means some 528 people per square kilometre. Of course it's not uniform, but take it as a rough ballpark figure.

          Düsseldorf itself ends up at 2681 people per square kilometre, according to Wikipedia, and that's a major German city.

          By comparison, New York City packs 8.2 million people within 830 square kilometres, which means around 10,000 people per square kilometre, or about 4 times the density of Düsseldorf, 20 times the density of the NRW or 40 times the density of Germany. They should have some _awesome_ network access then, right? The New York City metropolitan area packs 18.8 million inhabitants in 8680 square kilometres, so the density is around 10 times that of Germany, 4 times that of the NRW and slightly less than Düsseldorf. (But the last one is slightly misleading since it's comparing the whole sprawl including suburbs and satellite towns to just the main city area of Düsseldorf. The comparison to the whole NRW is a lot more accurate.)

          3. But that all becomes a lot less relevant when you notice that density doesn't correlate to net access that well in Europe either. E.g.:

          A. Actually the best places for net access aren't in such dense industrial areas of Germany, but actually in many rural areas. Somehow the Telekom ended up upgrading the net access to some villages and small-ish towns before the larger and denser cities.

          B. Among countries, the best access is in countries like... Sweden. According to the link you posted, it ends up at 20 inhabitants per square kilometre, which is considerably lower than the USA.

          Ok, so there the frozen north is mostly empty space, so let's look up Stockholm on Wikipedia. Stockholm itself is pretty packed, at 4,136 people per square kilometre, but then that's still peanuts compared to, say, New York City. If you take it together with its suburbs, i.e., the whole metropolitan area, it's a meager 499 people per square kilometre. Compared to the NYC metropolitan area, it's outright sparse. Some of the suburbs have as low as 80 people per square kilometre.

          Basically, to wrap this long rant up, population density doesn't seem to correlate to net access _that_ well. Sure, noone drags optical fibre to some lone hut on the top of a mountain, but you don't need ultra-packed communities to get broadband either. And in between those extremes, the correlation is at best imperfect, and at worst non-existant.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by orangepeel (114557)
        I wondered about that too. To make a guess about the answer, I had to find some maps showing US population density. Here's one (in PDF format) from the US government [census.gov] (I wish it had the year). Here's one from a .edu for 1990 levels [uark.edu]. And here's one from Time magazine done in a unique fashion [time.com].

        At first I thought this easily backed up my suspicion that, as you put it, the "spread out America" excuse doesn't work so well.

        But then I checked out a global map of population distribution [wikipedia.org] and now, after all thi
      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:37AM (#19965657) Journal
        "At times, I wonder if the "spread out America" card gets played a bit too much."

        The US has ~31 people per sq km, Australia is 1/100th the density with ~0.3 people per sq km, yet 97% of the population have a choice of service providers. The reason for this is that the copper network owners are required by law to lease their lines to competitors at "wholesale" prices, the leasing rules are a similar concept to what google is proposing for the spectrum auction.
        • Yes, and Australian broadband prices and speeds are still embarrassingly shit, even worse than the US by my last evaluation. I REALLY don't think we have anything to brag about despite our government's attempts to pull Telstra into line.
          • I agree with your price/performance assesment and I will take your word for the comparison against the US. However it was not my intention to "brag" about our system, the point I was trying to make is that a sparse population density is not by itself a hinderance to choice.

            Population density does have a discernable impact on price/performance but it is only one of many variables.

            Disclaimer(s):
            1. I screwed up the math in my original post, Oz has ~3.0ppl/sq.km. and is a tenth of the density of the US
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by whiteknight31 (744465)
      Manhattan has 1.5 million people living in 20 square miles. There are over 25 million people living in the extended metro area of NYC. The bay area has another huge concentration of people. Why does service in these regions suck just as much?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's easy to reach the 50% of the population nearest the population centers, harder to reach the 50% that's farther away.

      You clearly neither work in telecom, nor have you spent much time in the country, because you got it completely ass backwards. Dense population centers are the hardest, because of the politics, the coordination with all the other infrastructure (you don't just start methodically shutting down roads in cities on a whim), there are few clear lines of sight, etc. Out in the country, you ca
      • by fotbr (855184)
        Out in the country, you can see for miles, the legal system is far less complicated, etc.

        Really? Odd. There's hills and ravines here, and its not the backwoods of anywhere -- city of 300k (plus suburban sprawl to the north) is about 15 miles away, and this town had about 18k people as of the 2000 census. You'd be lucky to see a half mile before another ridge is in the way. Foliage is pretty dense too, which plays hell with microwave links, and the trees have a tendency to grow rapidly.

        And small town pol
        • A lot of country locations also have a density that would make all prospects of ADSL/Cable unprofitable or prohibitively expensive. I am lead to beleive most ADSL machines have a range of about 4km. In some places there is maybe 15 or 16 families in that area. Not even close enough to pay for the machine within the machines lifetime.
      • Lots of those high rise office buildings have fibre connections. The cities you mention are among some of the prime switching points for the internet. The available bandwidth is obscene.

        There are available technologies for getting the bandwidth from where it's switched to the common citizen without negotiating a million rights of way. They are not employed for the reason in my post below: the incumbent monopolies have an unlimited budget to maintain the scarcity - and as such the price - of their produc

    • by symbolset (646467) on Monday July 23, 2007 @11:02PM (#19965025) Journal

      Every time somebody trots out this lame excuse I will persist in pointing out that in bucolic Ephrata, Washinton - the middle of nowhere on the road to nowhere - they have gigabit broadband. That's fiber to the premises and gigabit Ethernet to the house, a symmetrical unmetered gigabit link to each subscriber, for less than I pay to Comcast each month.

      They get it through their power company and they're grandfathered in but I can't get that deal because the big players bought legislation prohibiting municipal broadband.

      So stop already with the story that the last mile is expensive, bandwidth is costly, density is the key lies already. It's about the incumbent monopolies maintaining their profits at the cost of depriving the average citizen of necessary infrastructure full stop.

      • by khallow (566160)
        As I understand it, there's a huge line following the railroad that passes through the town (I think it eventually ends up in Portland, Oregon). I think Stevenson, Washington, which is on the north bank of the Columbia River, taps into the same line. So I'd have to disagree. You're talking about a special case, a town that just happens to rest on a huge internet pipeline. Most small towns and for that matter, most parts of cities would not have that advantage.
        • The service is available to almost everyone in the county. Density is low so the county is huge.

          Now how many counties does that golden river of bandwidth flow through? Surely extending that one county over, or two, is no big deal. How many of these mainlines are there, and how many counties are within 100km of one? A: Many and Most of them.

          In the 90's I went out and watched them lay this cable. Thousands of strands of single mode glass. How much of it is dark still? 95%?

          In short, I call BS.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nelsonal (549144)
        Of course, it was all paid for by the manipulations that Enron was creating in California. Grant County sits on one side of the Columbia River which has more hydro dams than any other river. Most of the dams are owned by non-profit co-ops, that have sold power to California for years. When power prices went nuts in the summer of 2001, the co-op was minting money. So they had to plow that money into something, so they started stringing up fiber everywhere in the county. Sweet deal for the residents of G
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Except Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland have much lower population density yet beat us handily in broadband penetration...
    • by TheSync (5291) *
      It's like the problem we had in the US of upgrading television stations to Hi-Def. In Europe, you only have to upgrade two or three transmitters per country. In the US you have hundreds of transmitters dotted throughout the country

      There is no terrestrial Hi-Definition television in Europe. There is standard definition DVB-T, and there is limited hi-def on satellite and a bit on cable. Europe has generally decided to wait for 1080p and analog turn-off before pushing terrestrial HD.

      On the other hand, there
    • by fermion (181285) on Monday July 23, 2007 @11:53PM (#19965379) Homepage Journal
      This is used as an excuse, and in some parts it is a valid concen, but it is not the only problem. For instance,in my area there are around 3500 people per square mile. Yet DSL is not available in all areas. This means that cable has a monopoly on broadband. Even in areas where DSL is available, the quality is nowhere near what I got back in the late 90's. I suppose part of this is due to increased demand, but a lot of it is due to failing infrastructure. The Bells managed to get back an effective monpoloy on broad band over phones lines, and then made it practically unusable.

      And this is the final kicker. AT&T is putting fiber in our area, but first in the neighborhoods that already have DSL. They are going to let the cable company continue to have a monopoly in the other areas. To make matters worse, AT&T will not sell you just internet access. You have to buy a package.

      I tell you what our president has done. He has reduced America to third world status. INstead of being able to pay a private company to give you good access to the internet, you have pay a monopoly. And you can't pay for what you need, you have to pay for what they want you to have. BTW, this is not a new revelation. Foreign affairs did an write on this a few years back. We did not just all of the sudden lose our edge. It was a predictable part of policy,and has been obvious since before out president got reelected.

      • by scoove (71173) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:18AM (#19965549)
        This crap will never change as long as we have fools on both sides of politics that readily believe the only one party has been corrupted by money, special interest and the protection of elite, old money families. Neither party has a monopoly on the corruption of power.

        I tell you what our president has done. He has reduced America to third world status.

        Anyone who's spent time in third-world nations knows the falsehood of this ignorant commentary. Let's objectively criticize people for what they really have done - as Bush, Reid and Pelosi have no shortage of legitimate criticisms. Our President (and his Congressional counterparts) has exclusively represented the powerful special interests that put him in office in a manner no different than Clinton, Lyndon Johnson (Halliburton's Man, who's wife was a major shareholder of Halliburton until her recent death), FDR, Harry Truman, Nixon, and numerous others. Actually, you'd be hard pressed to find any President who didn't represent elites.

        Regarding broadband and the U.S. Federal Government, the Ag bill passed by Congress ~2002/2003 set aside record funds for rural broadband. Senator Harkin (D) of our state was instrumental in its passage, and also instrumental in having the actual rules written to exclusively benefit the incumbent fat-cat monopoly local telcos. Competitors to these tired old local monopolies were written out in the details. This wasn't BushHitlerCo, this was Democrats in Congress along with a Republican administration.

        Having worked for a competitor to the incumbents, covering 10 counties, we found funds dried up while tired old ILECs got tens of millions only to sit on the money. Worse yet, permissions for formerly illegal cross-subsidies were enacted, allowing monopolies like Iowa Telecom to apply $3.50 charges to every phone line and dump it into their broadband entity, driving competition out of the market. They kicked competition off of the copper, subsidized from their monopoly business and used monopoly subsidized operations and infrastructure to lower the cost of their broadband business and killed off any real threat. Both Democrats and Republicans were implicit in this gift to their fat-cat buddies.

        the Bush administration put Michael Powell in charge of the FCC, the digital robber barons were basically set free to do whatever they liked.

        Except the Clinton FCC already set the pace for special deals with incumbents and as mentioned, numerous persons of both parties made sure only their fat cat buddies would get new slush funds.

        Read up on the infamous Representative from Bell South, Billy Tauzin, and his efforts [llrx.com] with powerful Democratic Senator Dingell to further reinforce monopoly power in broadband. Tauzin was a Republican and Dingell a Democrat. Both are bought and paid for by the incumbents.

        As long as we have fools who believe one side is good and the other evil, we'll have a government exclusively representing fat-cat special interests while us fools get screwed. Get your head out of the sand if you don't like being screwed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by abertoll (460221)
      That's only a problem if you're looking at as if an entire country has to be priced the same. So sure, the US is a bigger country. But some areas of the US are just as densely populated as parts of Europe. So why don't certain states, for example, enjoy a $20 per month high speed internet charge?
  • It could be worse (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dan B. (20610) <slashdot@bryar.c ... inus threevowels> on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:34PM (#19964801) Homepage
    I live in a building where the developers contracted in a "triple-play" provider. Phone, internet and television are all provided by the one company, and poorly at that. We have zero competition to choose from, and only last week at the body corporate meeting did we (the resident owners who bothered to turn up) manage to reach an agreement that the monopoly situation was of no benefit to the residents nor the owners.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by seanadams.com (463190) *
      only last week at the body corporate meeting did we (the resident owners who bothered to turn up) manage to reach an agreement that the monopoly situation was of no benefit to the residents nor the owners.

      Right! This calls for immediate discussion!

      Yeah.

      What?!

      Immediate.

      Right.

      New motion?

      Completely new motion, eh, that, ah-- that there be, ah, immediate action--

      Ah, once the vote has been taken.

      Well, obviously once the vote's been taken. You can't act another resolution till you've voted on it...
  • I apologize for sounding like a whiner, but apparently the NY Times requires you to input payment information for their "Times Select" feature in order to read Op-Ed articles like this one.
    1. De-monopolize AND de-regulate ALL.
    2. regulate it all.
    3. Minimize the monopoly (from a CO to the home or from the block level green box to the home) and when inpractical, de-monopolize it.

    Right now, the situation was changed with W. in HEAVY favor of all comm companies. It will be interesting to see what the FCC will do with Googles request for the 700 MHZ bandwidth.
    • Infrastructure isn't something that is a very competitive market as it's very hard and expensive to run an entire network or system. The up-front costs are so huge that the economies of scale pretty much prevent more than one player from being the market in most areas. The government didn't help things in turning the de facto monopoly into an actual one and stifling somebody that might want to enter a market that could support two independent networks. This happened in my town- the local telco prevented the
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:37PM (#19964823) Journal
    I was in France last year for a few months, and I believe there were triple-play services (Internet, Phone, and TV) being offered for around EUR 30 / month. Internet telephony is a pretty common offering there; there are lots of land-line plans you can get that offer unlimited calling to certain overseas regions (North America, for example) using it.
  • by Black-Man (198831) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:44PM (#19964871)
    Sheesh... cable "monopolies" exist on the local level. Local municipalities in a lot of states make exclusive arrangements with the cable providers. Recently, Indiana and Michigan struck down the local cable company arrangements allowing competition at the state level. Ohio has recently passed legislation, too. For too long competition meant, the cable provider vs. DSL. Hopefully real competition comes down from this legislation. Maybe someone from Michigan or Indiana could comment??

    • There will never be real competition because it is usually only profitable for one company to service a municipality at a time. If another did move in and they shared the customers one would go under. I know for a fact cities in Ohio are not allowed to exclude any competitors, and that was before this legislation was passed (do you have a link?). If any company wants to offer cable, they must negotiate the terms with the local government in order to use their rights-of-way. In light of that, guess how many cities have more than one cable company serving them. AFAIK, none.

      People used to complain to my peers and me on the cable advisory board that we shouldn't be giving Time Warner a monopoly over cable service. We showed them the laws on the subject. Anyone is free to offer cable service, it's just that no one wants to once there is an established player in town.
      • by BoberFett (127537)
        Perhaps the answer is for cities to own and maintain the last mile infrastructure and let private companies handle anything beyond that.
  • All else being equal, the wealth distribution in Western Europe would tend to predict a higher percentage of broadband subscription. Undereducated folks living hand to mouth probably aren't going to shell out for broadband. They may not even have a computer. As a percentage of the total population, that demographic is larger in the U.S. than in Germany or France.

    The summary of this article makes the suggestion that it was the Bush appointee's laissez-faire governance of the FCC that allowed monopolies t

  • As a result, there's little competition in U.S. broadband -- if you're lucky, you have a choice between the services offered by the local cable monopoly and the local phone monopoly. The price is high and the service is poor, but there's nowhere else to go. So what happens if Google starts just giving it away? Seriously, think about it for a while. Heresy, I know, but ... why not? :-)
  • I'm just curious, does population density have any impact on this? I seem to recall that I know a lot of people in the US who live further from a big city than you can get anywhere in Europe.
  • Thanks to people who don't secure their wireless connections, I can get free internet access.

    But the service sucks.
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday July 23, 2007 @11:56PM (#19965405)
    I have a friend who lives up in California and has a bunch of people working out of his house because his home internet connection is somehow 50mbps per second because the place was setup as some ultra high speed trial a few years back. He'd like to get all his employees out of his living room but he can't because he can't find a single commercial building with comparable broadband speeds without going to an absurdly priced OC3. Just goes to show that as William Gibson has said, "The future is here, it's just not widely distributed yet".
  • Choice (Score:3, Funny)

    by Duncan3 (10537) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:07AM (#19965493) Homepage
    I have plenty of choices. There is the 768k plan, the 1.5Mbit plan, the 3Mbit plan and the 6Mbit plan from AT&T.
  • If you're "lucky", you have a buffet of connection options in the US. You have cable access (in most places that's 1MB or faster) and DSL from a variety of providers (256K and up, often 1MB and faster). In many places you can get residential wireless, with speeds dependent on how many people are sharing an AP. If you live in high-density housing you may have access to fiber, with speeds from 3MB and up. Generally speaking, the cost of this access is less than $100 per month, and may be as little as $50
  • by Casandro (751346) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:29AM (#19965629)
    The reason why germany got so many broadband connections is rather simple. It's way cheaper to have broadband here than dial-up.

    Traditionally you had to pay for every single phonecall, even local ones. So dialing-in into an ISP _really_ cost you a lot of money. In fact back then most ISPs didn't charge you for their services so you only had to pay to your local phone company.
    Then with DSL and cable modems you suddenly got a flat-rate for a moderately low price.

    Currently the costs are about this: (all in Euro)
    dial-up 0.1 cents/minute => 43.2 Euro a month (wow, this suddenly even became affordable)
    DSL is about 50 Euros a month including an ISDN phone-line with flat-rate service for data-calls for all of germany.

    Dial-up used to be even more expensive, costing as much as 3 cents per minute.
  • Is anyone really surprised that the French, Germans, Koreans, and Japanese are beating us at downloading copious amounts of porn? Different countries have different priorities. Once the British and French outdid us in useless foreign military adventures, now we have them handily beat in that arena.

    It takes all kinds in this crazy world of ours.
  • by patio11 (857072) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:45AM (#19965993)
    Hideho, American expat in rural Japan here. Its been ages in Internet time since I've paid for a US connection, so lets compare notes:

    I get high speed internet through YahooBB (ADSL), which is now run by Softbank. I pay 4200 yen a month (~$34 at present) for 50 MB/s download speed, which is oversold (bounces between 2 MB/s and 12 MB/s when connecting to sites where I could reasonably expect to get the full benefit, such as iTunes Japan or the WoW bittorrent installer). This includes the basic charge for VoIP phone service but no call time (which is cheap -- 3 cents a minute to the US) and equipment rental (the modem -- should have bought it, would have paid for itself around month 18). I also pay approximately 1800 yen for basic telephone service, a necessary prerequisite for ADSL unless you want your VoIP phone to not be reachable by non-VoIP customers ("uh oh"). There is also the issue of buying a lease for a landline, which is a one time charge of $100 but which theoretically has the same resale value so we'll ignore that for the present.

    So, all told, about $50 for high speed service which consistently delivers 2 to 12 MB/s.

    What does $50 get in the US these days?
    • by BruceHoward (749587) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:53AM (#19966287) Homepage
      I'm paying approx. 5000 yen / month for "Hikari Fiber service" -- 100mb fiber to the house, and another 3000 yen for the PPPOE connection with fixed IP to bbexcite.co.jp. Call it USD 65.00 or so. Maybe a little high, but the service is solid, bidirectional throughput is excellent and no apparently filtering or traffic shaping.

      I'm told other providers in our neighborhood offer equivalent throughput over copper (usen comes to mind), possibly at a lower price. There's also service available from the local electric utility TEPCO. And of course, lower throughput options like YahooBB are also available.

      Having informally checked out each of these options, my impression is that at least in our neck of the Tokyo woods, service is not oversold regardless of which of these options you chose.

      Friends back in the states to whom I've described this say I'm in for a rude awakening when we move back.
  • In Canada, it is often the local phone monopoly vs the local cable monopoly as well. But these companies actually compete with each other and bring the prices down to very low levels. In fact, due to monopoly deregulation, they're also often competing in the phone and TV business with each other too. But even before they lost their monopolies, there were often some good price wars with high speed internet.

    Why is that not the same in the US? If there are two companies in the same region, would they not s

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