Why do you need to "wire up a large geographical space"?
Sure, it's possible that a lot of little ISPs could cover an area effectively as well and compete with the monopolists on a block-by-block basis. Economies of scale work against it, but it's possible. I don't think such an ecosystem would create too much competition, though. Any ISP capable of starting up and surviving in a tiny footprint would likely choose the most under-served space to do it, so you'd expect most areas to be "monopolist + 1 small ISP" instead of a few ISPs, which is what you'd get with a lot of large operations working a city at a time.
Then again, "a lot of large operations working a city at a time" is exactly what we don't have, so the 1 small / 1 big equilibrium is better than nothing.
Really? I don't believe that's true.
You don't think that the number of people with competitive broadband depends heavily on the definition of "broadband"? If I define "broadband" as "a working sewer system" I think we'd see a substantial increase in the number of people with broadband. And if you define it as a 25Mbit Internet connection, you'd see a much smaller number. So when the telcom industry tells rosy stories of robust competition in the broadband industry, they're using a definition carefully chosen to make that story true.
Netflix works fine at 3 Mbps, what more do you want?
Netflix recommends 5Mbps for HD and 25Mbps for UHD. If we want to stick to a single stream at SD, it's great, though. Previous generations survived with low res black and white televisions with no ill effects, so we could actually get away with a lot less than that. As long as our Internet usage patterns remain what they were in, say, 2012 for the foreseeable future, we can define ourselves as having perfect infrastructure and decalre victory.
Weirdly, the US broadband market seems to be the only tech market where we haggle over how many years ago everything became "good enough" to stop improving. I mean, Intel keeps putting out better processors even though MS Word runs perfectly well on the ones from a few years ago. It's hard to fill up the hard drives we buy today, but they're still getting bigger. Which is good, because cloud storage sucks at 3Mbps, so all of the possibilities on that frontier are out the window unless we upgrade.
Furthermore, many of those subsidize broadband, so it's actually a lot more expensive than it seems.
It's these kinds of vague, hand-wavy assertions that drive me nuts. This stuff is just numbers, and it's knowable. Which countries and how much? What's the definition of "a lot more expensive" in terms of dollars per month so it's easy to compare? I admit it's hasty back-of-the-envelope work, but I'm not able to subsidies that work out to the equivalent of more than a few dollars a month.
The reason why that matters is not pricing, but that Comcast at least has to keep their equipment and services competitive.A government-mandated monopoly doesn't even have to do that.
They have to keep their equipment and services competitive with whatever a new competitor might bring online, but they can keep their prices at monopoly levels until that competitor actually does come online. The fact that Comcast has to keep up efficiency doesn't result in all that much benefit the end user if it all ends up in monopoly profits. The fact that it's marginally better than a government ISP is still damning with faint praise.