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Networking The Internet United States

US Lags World In Broadband Access 608

An anonymous reader writes "When It Comes To Broadband, U.S. Plays Follow The Leader says a story in IWeek. Their thesis is that, while broadband access in the United States rose from 60 million users in March 2005 to 84 million in March 2006, the US is well behind countries like England and China. Indeed, what you may not realize is that the U.S. ranks a surprisingly poor 12th in worldwide broadband access, a situation which could threaten its ability to maintain its technological lead. The federal government is no help: the FCC has almost no data on the rate of hi-speed adoption, or of what the speed and quality of those services are. Broadband is more expensive here than in other nations, as well, almost 10 times as expensive by some estimates. The cost and poor quality of service aren't from population density, aren't from lack of interest, and are not from lack of technical know-how. So, what is holding us back?
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US Lags World In Broadband Access

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  • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:48PM (#18027120) Journal
    Most of the contry was settled with the cheap gas in mind. So a large part of the population is decentralized.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by EvanED ( 569694 )
      Really? I would have said most of the country was settled with horses in mind, but that's just me.

      (I know what you're trying to say, but I don't know how much cheap gas has to do with our settlement patterns.)
      • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:57PM (#18027280) Journal
        Russia had horses, it had more land and it had comparable population. It is mostly urban. People settled close to services in the 20th century. Cheap gas allowed the distance from the services to be further while maintaining the time it took to reach them.
      • by KodaK ( 5477 ) <sakodak.gmail@com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:08PM (#18027482) Homepage
        If you look at a map of the US you'll notice that a lot of towns in the mid west line up along lines of longitude.

        The reason for this is that the great plains are on a similar grade from east to west. Many railroad lines ran straight east/west. Going from the lower elevation up the grade to the west the trains would run out of steam (literally) and need to be refueled at pretty much the same place no matter what latitude you were on. Consequently, the same approximate distance between towns in rural areas, especially in plain states.

        That has nothing to do with population density. Sorry.
      • by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:58PM (#18028504)
        While most towns were founded prior to the automobile, the actual structure of most towns has transformed quite a bit in response to it. Even though there were many far-flung towns prior to cars, most towns tended to be fairly dense, with most people living near the center of the city (except for ranchers and farmers of course). After the car, you get widespread suburbs and exurbs, reachable only via freeways, and the population within a given metropolitan area becomes a lot less densely packed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by StarvingSE ( 875139 )
        Most of the nation was settled with the horse in mind. Think of all of the major historical big cities: San Fransisco, Chicago, Detroit, New York, etc. etc. Now look at a map of major railways. You'll see that most major cities were connected by rail before they connected by road.

        The automobile contributed to sprawl around major urban centers, but it did not contribute to the way the country was initially populated.

        As an aside, for anyone interested, here is an interesting wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] regar
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by saskboy ( 600063 )
      Cheap gas wasn't really the factor for settling the country, as it happened for the most part before gasoline was invented. Things like agriculture and waterways played the main role.

      Today it makes American [and rural Canada] the prime regions to build up an Internet infrastructure, but we're lagging. Wireless options might start filling the gap this decade, but with large lag times for satellite Internet, I don't foresee it taking over before ground based [or balloon based] wireless does.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by superwiz ( 655733 )
        The country wasn't realy settled until the 20th century. That is to say to urban centers appeared (off of east coast). The prime targets for internet infrastructure are the dense population centers. Most of the people in this country live outside of them because they can reach their services in reasonable time by cars.
    • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:04PM (#18027414) Homepage Journal

      a large part of the population is decentralized.

      Yep, but that doesn't explain why other countries that are even more decentralized are kicking America's ass. There is no appreciable statistical correlation. Plus, even if there were a correlation, the excuse that America is diffuse is a pretty weak excuse for the technological and economic backwardness we're exhibiting with broadband.

      America's broadband failures shouldn't be news to anyone who has been paying attention. Several reports have gone into extensive detail on this over the past few years. Check out Broadband Reality Check II [freepress.net] (PDF) for a solid analysis of where the US is in broadband, and how the FCC has its head in the sand.

      We've been giving the phone and cable companies a free ride, buying their arguments that free enterprise is working efficiently. It isn't. These massive companies have managed to keep all other entrants out of their markets by manipulating the FCC and getting the Supreme Court to buy their argument that there's a free market for broadband. There isn't. We have the worst of both worlds: Government protection of an oligopoly comprised of regional duopolies (one cable company and one DSL provider in most markets), and tremendously high barriers to entry, without at least the broad reach that a government-controlled system would have. We need a truly competitive marketplace, or we'll keep languishing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by superwiz ( 655733 )
        Can you give an example of a more decentralized country that has better broadband access?
      • Here's the end result- the Quarterly Report. This makes American corporations short sighted- if they can't show a profit within 4 months, then that's a project not worth doing. With competition, margins are razor-thin on broadband unless you're the very first company into a new area with sufficient potential subscribership to pay for your equipment within 4 months, you're not going to do it. Even more urban areas rarely get broadband unless existing infrastructure can support it, and small towns in the middle of nowhere aren't sufficiently populated to pay for it.

        In most other nations, government services step in at that point, but not in the United States where we are afraid of government media services.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SonicSpike ( 242293 )
        I hate to tell you but utilities and broadband companies here in the US do NOT currently operate in the free market. If they did the situation would be improved.

        In fact the problem is that there is NO true competition available (it is a cartel/oligopoly situation) because of governmental regulations. Try starting your own cable or DSL company sometime; see how quickly the PUC shuts you down.

        This is the result of intrusive government, excessive regulation, and big business buying legislation and regulation i
    • by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:06PM (#18027440) Journal
      Wow! So, you mean, I can move to somewhere with a super-dense population like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago and be able to get 100 MBps broadband for a reasonable price?

      Wait...I live in one of those places and it isn't available.

      Population density isn't the problem here. If that were the case, our major cities would be wired out the wazoo, but they're still "oooo...ADSL! I can get 768 Kbps upstream for only $65!"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xzvf ( 924443 )
      I agree. It is nearly impossible to get good broadband in rural locations. I'm not a big government type, but it's time to do a Tennessee Valley Authority for broadband. Without that kind of kickstart most of the US might not have electric service today.
    • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:17PM (#18027666) Homepage Journal
      Do a wiki search for "Lincon Highway". Wasn't even until 1920 that we had a single road across the US. Even longer until it was paved. Rails, sure, but driving across the US was a 30 day adventure, involving fording streams and rivers. San Fransisco was already completely built out by the time of the 1908 fire. We didn't have a national highway act until the end of the Eisenhower term. And people wonder why California has a totally different culture than the east coast - it was pretty much a seperate independent country until the advent of the highway and cheap travel in the 40s and 50s.... also why none of SF's banks failed in the great depression.
    • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:24PM (#18027790) Homepage Journal
      someplace like new york city, where the infrastructure (wires and boxes 'o' bits and the like) is generally quite close to the subscribers, DSL is an easier play than in north dakota. the peturbations of the signal as the line gets longer deteriorate the possible speed you can deliver, and beyond about 18,000 feet, your line rate is about two bits per week. ADSL2+ gets you a little better, but the rule "inside" is that beyond 15,000 feet, service becomes tenuous.

      it's too expensive to retrofit any of the bad-move 24 and 26 gauge wire that was put up in the 60s and 70s and 80s, and thinner wire makes it only worse. without equal footing between the competitors (telcos are highly regulated and every time they change light bulbs in the bathroom, they have to notify all potential competitors, and nobody else has to meet those standards,) stuff doesn't get placed unless there are basically guaranteed customers enough to pay for the expansions. that's a fact of life after the telecom bust of the turn of the century.

      and for some silly reason, uptake of high-speed subscriber lines has been fitful at best, which means any equipment installed isn't filling up. you get the population wildly excited about something, they demand it, rip the walls off the corporate headquarters to sign up for it, and costs of all items come down with higher production and deployment.

      the big one is distance, and getting around that engenders the cost issue.

      in the US, folks like their elbow room and their freedom. overseas, where population densities are higher and the government decides through centrally-owned telcos what to push and basically what it should cost, it can be expected that high-speed like DSL is going to be more availiable and less costly.

      with the bankers and the government working against it here, and distances making it tough, it's going to be harder to get. pure and simple.
      • by Iloinen Lohikrme ( 880747 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:18PM (#18028840)
        I'm sorry to say but costs and competition are poor excuses for having no broadband available or having it cost much. You state that in other countries where broadband adoption is higher the government through state owned telco has made it priority to have broadband adoption high, its not true either. Just to give you an example...

        Finland is a country of 5 million peoples. The population density is 16/km. There is only one metropolitan area, Helsinki, with little over 1 million inhabitants. The other few major towns are barely over 200 thousand inhabitants. Broadband is available almost in all corners of Finland, except some northern and eastern rural areas. Even in these rural communities, usually broadband is at least available in the centre of the community. If you live in a town you can get 8mb dsl-connection with 39 and 24mb with 49. I myself have 1mb connection which costs 24.90. Even if you live in a rural area, like my parents: 5km to community centre (community total population little over 6000) and 20km to nearest town (36000) you can get broadband connection with acceptable price. You may think that government has lend a hand in here, but that isn't the case like I said. In Finland before 90s telecoms sector consisted from independent local phone companies and state owned Tele. After deregulation in the beginning 90s markets because free to competition and local phone companies loosed their monopoly to their wires. In example you can start virtual operator in broadband or in mobile business very easily by renting other operators wires and equipment as needed. And to say it again, Finnish government didn't put any pennies to build up the infrastructure, the playing field was totally left open to companies.

        When you compare Finland to US states, in population density Finland is in the same bar as Colorado or Maine.

        And on a note on competition. Competition really does work. Here in Finland local telecom operators have had to update their networks and try as hard as possible to get people take broadband because otherwise soon they wouldn't have no customers at all. In here mobile operators have been very aggressive and almost everybody have mobile phone and more and more people use it as their only phone. Also by introduction of GPRS and later EDGE and UTMS networks, there is pressure from mobile operators to get customers adopt mobile broadband from them. So competition and costs of operation are not real reasons for not having or having costly broadband access.
    • I call bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:30PM (#18027912)
      I live in one of the most densely populated regions in the US and arguably the center of the tech industry. Yet my choice for broadband is either a single cable company, SBC or several CLECs like Speakeasy. Not only that, but in the last couple of places that I lived, I always was at the max range of the DSLAM, which meant that my connection was regularly crap.

      The problem is not location. The problem is local governments being cahoots with telecom monopolies who love nothing more than charging through the roof for crap connections. Yes, other nations have telecom monopolies as well, but for some reason they're not facing the same kind of problems. I suspect that the difference is that with a state monopoly, you can vote for change. With a government sanctioned economic monopoly, you can only bend over.
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <evaned@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:49PM (#18027142)
    Maybe we can reduce that lag if we install broadband. I hear ping times are noticeably faster than dial-up...
  • This might be... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bin Naden ( 910327 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:49PM (#18027146)
    This might have something to do with the US being such a big country. It's quite easy to put cables through a heavily concentrated Asian population. It's quite another thing to lay thousands of miles of cable across the United Staes.
    • by PingSpike ( 947548 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:56PM (#18027262)
      Also, if the cable and phone companies did that they would set a bad precident for themselves upholding their end of the aggreement with the tax payers.
    • by 14CharUsername ( 972311 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:04PM (#18027412)
      haha everytime someone says this.

      Person A: US boradband sucks because the US is a big country.
      Person B: Canada is bigger and boradband doesn't suck there.
      Person A: Oh...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tOaOMiB ( 847361 )
        Person C: Yeah, but where do Canadian's live? While Canada might be larger in terms of land area, what if you look at inhabited land area?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by wclacy ( 870064 )
        The US lags behind 11 other Countries because Porn is more important in those other countries. They need their Broadband!!! E-mail works fine over dialup :-)
    • by chill ( 34294 )
      If that were true, our major cities with high population densities would be well served. And I don't consider 6 Mbps / 768 Kbps well served.

      They aren't. The major companies aren't interested in providing you with broadband access. They are only interested in providing you with "Triple Play" coverage -- television, phone and, oh yeah, Internet.
    • by Jboost ( 960475 )
      Isn't it better to compare by population density rather then size?
      Sure it isn't a surprise that the Netherlands is in the top with a population density of 392 people per square kilometer, but let's check the other top countries.

      Population per square kilometer:
      United States: 31
      Sweden: 20
      Finland: 15.5
      Norway: 12
      Iceland: 2.9
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by _ population_density [wikipedia.org]

      Oh, and TFA uses OECD statistics from 2001.
      The 2005 statistics are here: http://www.oecd.org/document/39/0 [oecd.org]
    • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:16PM (#18027640)
      Do you have any idea how much dark fiber is running through the US? Honestly, this was a good argument about 5 years ago. I live in a town of about 50k that has 4 different companies that run fiber through it on the way between SF and Seattle. I heard somewhere that the estimate is something like 200 pairs total.. (if your going to dig up roads, you might as well lay a bunch of pairs so you don't have to dig up roads again in a few years..)..

      Now, in my town, which had fiber run to all the neighborhoods by the cable company 3 years ago, I have watched my cable internet access go from $35/month for a 3Mb connection, to $45/month (because I don't have cable TV, they decided to charge me an extra $10/month to "encourage" me to purchase cable TV) This month, my rates went up to $58/month (plus taxes, modem rental, misc other fees), for a 7MB connection. Funny thing is, they don't have 7Mb service in my town yet, and never got around to upgrading their connection out of town. When my access was 3Mb/s, I was getting usually around 2Mb in the evening. Now that I have a 7Mb connection, I am getting about 1.5Mb/s in the evening. The cable company has tripled the number of customers, and doesn't want to spend the money for a faster pipe out of town. So, I am currently paying $60+ a month for a little under 2Mb/s connection.. (ie, I'm paying them almost double for slower service.) The company decided that they could pay off the cost of running the fiber and stuff by charging $35/month, otherwise they wouldn't have done it. So what exactly is that extra $25+ a month going to? They have not been upgrading their infrastructure...

      Sadly, My only other broadband choices are the phone company, which I had before, but was 16 (yes that is 16!!!) hops from my DSL box just to get out on the public Internet.. (added about 95ms lag, go QWEST). and a newer Wi-Max provider, Clearwire. Clearwire blocks pretty much anything but public Web access, has a 19 page "contract agreement" with a 1 year contract, and unless you notify them in writing 30 days prior to the 1 year expiration, your automatically renewed for another 1 year contract, with something like a $180 cancellation fee.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 )
      It's quite easy to put cables through a heavily concentrated Asian population. It's quite another thing to lay thousands of miles of cable across the United Staes.

            Ron Jeremy can do it.
  • by curunir ( 98273 ) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:50PM (#18027156) Homepage Journal
    Quote the article (emphasis mine):

    President George W. Bush admitted back in 2004 that while broadband use had tripled over the previous four years, the U.S. then ranked 10th among industrialized nations for broadband availability, and he added, "Tenth is 10 spots too low, as far as I'm concerned."

    <snide-remark>With intelligent leadership like that, it makes you wonder how we can be lagging so far behind.</snide-remark>
  • Again? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think we've seen this story many times before. The basic summary of all comments is:
    • The USA is a large country with a dispersed population. It's tough rolling out broadband to such a large geographic area
    • The country pioneered the internet and, as such, also has to deal with legacy issues. As an analogy, it's easier to move forward when everybody has a touch-tone phone than having to move forward and keep legacy support for customers who only have rotary phones.
    • ???
    • Profit!
    • Re:Again? (Score:5, Informative)

      by IdleTime ( 561841 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:59PM (#18027314) Journal
      See that's what you get for not reading it...

      From the article:

      A Rural Explanation? Hardly One of the rationales often given for lower broadband penetration in the U.S. is that low population density makes broadband deployment, especially in rural areas, considerably more expensive in the U.S. than among more dense populations in countries such as Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. That argument falters, however, when one considers that five of the 11 nations that lead the U.S. in per capita broadband penetration, including Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Canada, have significantly lower population densities than the U.S.
      • Re:Again? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by qbwiz ( 87077 ) * <.john. .at. .baumanfamily.com.> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:22PM (#18027748) Homepage
        Perhaps, but what percentage of their populations live in northern Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Canada? It could be that the population density of those countries varies enough that the few very rural people without broadband can't bring down percentage, compared with the very large number of people in places with high population density and broadband.
      • Re:Again? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by maxume ( 22995 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:33PM (#18028004)
        Of course, that completely ignores population density density. There's two there for a reason. I bet Alaska has really nice broadband penetration, despite its rather incredible size, simply because a huge percentage of the population lives in cities. Iceland works like that too; 190,000 people live in/around Reykjavik, at a density in excess of 1000 people/square mile, compared to a total population of about 300,000 living at a density of less than 10 people per square mile for the entire country. Serve one modest city and you serve 2/3 of the country.

        It would be much more relevant to consider serviceable population vs. infrastructure costs. If you integrated the part of the graph with positive slope, you could even find out how many people in a country were worth servicing at all.
  • by PRC Banker ( 970188 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:54PM (#18027228)
    While I could accept that the US was/is behind South Korea, and even, with qualitative judgement, behind some Western European countries, it is not behind China. China has a little more than 100 million Internet users. Many of them use broadband, yes. But China also has a population of 1.3bn+. China lags the US's Internet connectivity, not to mention the quality/speed of service (contention rations of ADSL of 100:1 common, DSL poisoning common, plain not being able to access content common). Heck, those in China that don't have Internet access probably don't have running water or reliable electricity. Where the Internet is connected here it is important, but connection quality and, more importantly, basic poverty in all but the bigger cities, mean that it's not that important. The US does not lag China in terms of Internet connectivity, and any study that says so clearly hasn't experienced the Internet in China.
  • Here we go.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:55PM (#18027242)
    Cue the 200 "US has so much more land area than _____, so that's why" threads. I think this story has been a repeat on Slashdot for a good portion of 6 years, if not more.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@xoxy. n e t> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:55PM (#18027244) Homepage Journal
    threaten its ability to maintain its technological lead

    What technological lead? The "U.S." doesn't have one. All we have is the honor of being home-port to a bunch of large multinational corporations, who seem to do most of the actual production, and they do most of their manufacturing and an increasing amount of their research overseas. We couldn't make half the stuff that "American" companies sell, and U.S. consumers take for granted; it's all made and increasingly designed overseas.

    We're a market for goods and capital, and a source of lawyers, marketers, and middle-managers. And "intellectual property," which the rest of the world could quickly decide to do without, if it wanted to.

    I think history is going to look back, and see the Internet as the last significant achievement of a dying empire.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by planetmn ( 724378 )
      they do most of their manufacturing and an increasing amount of their research overseas

      Technological lead has nothing to do with manufacturing. And of course overseas research is increasing, you can't go lower than 0 which a lot of countries had not too long ago.

      As much as the whining on slashdot would have you believe otherwise, the U.S. is a technological leader and a country that millions around the world want to come to. We have some of the best universities in the world. Have you ever noticed
      • As much as the whining on slashdot would have you believe otherwise, the U.S. is a technological leader and a country that millions around the world want to come to. We have some of the best universities in the world. Have you ever noticed the number of foreign student's that come to the U.S. to study?

        I'm not sure whether the above is boosterism, chearleading, misplaced patriotism, or just cliched bits gleaned from some expert spouting his interpretation of exceptionalism theory on Fox News. One thing I a
    • All we have is the honor of being home-port to a bunch of large multinational corporations

      Unlike the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Korea...? I don't get how your diatribe against globalism has anything to do with whether there is an "America" or not. Is Japan not "Japan" because it sells most of its goods overseas, and built its post-war economy around American industrial economic principles? Because the UK liberalized its economy during the Thatcher era to open up more foreign investment and spur growth,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:55PM (#18027250)
    So, what is holding us back?
    One word: Comcast
    $60 / month for cable internet is the worst screwing I've ever received.
  • Does this study differentiate between residential broadband and broadband being brought into a business or government entity? It seems to me that broadband is very prevalent in the US where it counts: at work and school. At home it's not. I'm sure that price and availability are factors, but I imagine lack of desire to switch to broadband is just as equal a factor. There are a lot of people who just don't care if AOL is a little bit faster if all they're going to be doing is checking e-mail and using AI
  • I live in Farmington Utah which is in Davis County. I have two real broadband choices DSL via MSN/Qwest or Cable via Comcast. I pay roughly 50 bucks a month for a max of 6mbps downstream and a less then 1mbs upstream. Seems ok but talking to other people in different parts of the country they get better or worse speeds but they always pay less. Overseas is even worse, they always get better speeds for better prices. So I would say yes based on my anecdotal evidence the US is lagging behind nations with
  • The Tubes are cloging.
  • by ksheff ( 2406 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:00PM (#18027332) Homepage

    Is the percentage of people on broadband a even valid benchmark of technological ability of a nation? Maybe a large amount of people don't have broadband because they don't want it? My parents live in a little town in the northern Great Plains and they recently got DSL, not because they were chomping at the bit to get broadband, but because the internal modem in their computer went bad and it would have cost them as much to get that replaced by the local computer guy as it would for the DSL installation charge. Otherwise, they would have stayed with dialup because that is sufficient for their online usage.

    IMHO, the only people who harp about this are the companies trying to get a govt subsidy.

  • Summary of comments (Score:5, Informative)

    by pnuema ( 523776 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:04PM (#18027402)
    Don't bother reading, all comments will fall into one of the following:


    2. O NOES! US is teh sUx0rs!

    3. omg teh US is teh R0x0rS! France = surrender monkeys!

    4. blah blah dark fiber blah blah net nuetrality blah blah GOOGLENET!

    5. I for one welcome Korean||English||Chinese overlords.

    6. I'm stuck on dial-up, you insensitive clod!

    7. If you want to live in the boonies, you pay the price. The invisible hand of Adam Smith will give all true Libertarians happy endings...

    8. ???

    9. Profit.

    Thanks, I'll be here all week.

  • The press says regurgitates the same story!

    Until something actually changes, let this subject die...
  • A: depends on what country you are talkin about.

    In some third world countries its far less expensive to develope the wireless route then to lay cable.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    See This map [usda.gov] for why it really IS about population density. Canada, pshaw, sure they have a lot of land, but they have almost no one in 90% of it. It certainly looks like almost all of Candada's population is within 200km of the US border. Norway, Sweden, and Finland are in the same boat...

    This is one of the stupider more vapid "analysis" articles..

    Sorry for the Anonymous, I left my password at home...
  • The article makes a great issue of price/Mbit which is perfectly silly given how broadband prices are more or less arbitrary - at least in Europe (Sweden).

    I had 10 Mbit for a bunch of years and paid ~40 euros/month. I've had 100 Mbit for two years now and I'm paying slightly less.

    Should you be as unfortunate as not to have fiber optics to your house (typically outside of city environments) you can be forced to suffer ADSL which typically ranges from 5-20 Mbit downstream and 1-5 mbit upstream. And guess

  • The cost and poor quality of service aren't from population density

    oh really?

    the usa is more sparsely populated, and is much larger, than the broadband penetration leaders like south korea

    this makes perfect sense to me, strictly as a function of the sheer number of new wires you need to run

    now if someone made a comparison between south korea and say, the bay area to the san fernando valley or the washington-new york city corridor, approximate equally sized, equally densely populated areas, then you have a m
    • That point is addressed in the article:

      five of the 11 nations that lead the U.S. in per capita broadband penetration, including Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Canada, have significantly lower population densities than the U.S.
      Additionally, do even the most densely populated spots in the US have routine affordable 100Mbps service like that in Japan and South Korea?
    • Very astute.

      Now kindly explain why Canada has greater broadband adoption than the U.S.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chill ( 34294 )
      You can't get 10 MBps or 100 Mbps Internet links in the San Fernando Valler or the Washington-New York City area. At least, not without paying close to $1000 a month.
  • So, what is holding us back?

    One word. Lobbyist. How many times have you heard about the fights to stop the propagation of the FreeNets? These companies don't want to competition and they damn sure don't want someone to give the people something free that they could be charging for! Capitalism makes everyone rich, Capitalism not held in check makes *everyone else* poor.
  • Figured some price comparisons were in order:

    I've got a 10 mbps LAN connection, I live in Sweden and pay the equivalent of $28 a month. Though, that is a student price, twice that for non-students.

    How about you?
  • Capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:13PM (#18027574) Homepage

    This is pure capitalism. Thanks to all the competition in the broadband market, the US is well covered and the prices are great.

    No... wait....

    Most places are under a monopoly leading to high prices ($60 a month for 2mbps), bad service, late coming to the area, etc.

    Let's look at me. I didn't get cable modem access until about 2001 or 2002 despite living near a HUGE development area. One of the fastest growing counties in the entire country at the time. And I'm in a rich/dense neighborhood. You'd think that would spur them.

    Nope. I had to pay for ISDN at INSANE prices.

    What about DSL? Still not available. "Too far out.". My guess is they just don't want to compete with the established cable. But I don't get a choice of cable so my prices are high and my service is terrible.

    Signing up so that only one cable operator or local phone company can operate in an area is one of the worst decisions a municipality can make.

    Please, Time Warner, come save me from Comcrud.

    • Re:Capitalism (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:12PM (#18028738) Homepage
      Like you said, this is because you have a government granted monopoly to a private company that has no incentive to provide anything better than "good enough."

      It's not a free market, it's the worst of all possible scenarios.

      Most traditional liberatarian/conservatives would agree that providing infrastructure support is a legitimate and useful function of government. The logistical and real-estate problems in building a national highway system, for example, are probably only solvable through government intervention.

      The fact that the U.S. Constitution explicity grants the federal government power to build roads for the use of the Post Office is telling. Obviously the founders could not envision e-mail, but facilitating the transfer of such information would most definitely be within the original scope of the document. It doesn't even require creative "interpretation" by the Supreme Court to see that.

      This is one case where the U.S. government has a legitimate claim to the legal authority to provide infrastructure to U.S. citizens, and they've abdicated that responsibility instead.

      Now, I'm not arguing that a federally sponsored internet infrastructure would be necessarily cheaper and more efficient overall than the one we have now. It would be more expensive in order to be universally available.

      But this whole thing is a perfect example of how our government is so broken that they have to invent new "powers" that allow them to waste billions of dollars on ridiculous programs that are blatantly unconstitutional, all while completely ignoring a basic responsibility.

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:16PM (#18027648)
    I mean...

    1. We're about 4% of the world's population but consume 63% of its drugs, ouch!
    2. We're are leaders in attacking other nations in the name of defending our interests and "spreading democracy."
    3. We run the biggest trade and budget deficits in the world.
    4. We're the only industrialized country whose budget is supported by nations we call "undemocratic."
    5. We're the world's greatest polluters.
    6. We have the world's most obese population.

    Need I mention more?

  • I always thought the more a certain product or technology was adopted, the lower the price would be. But if you have regular cable internet from companies like Cablevision, you're paying between $45-55 PER MONTH! They raise the price EVERY YEAR. I finally got "smart" and switched to AT&T DSL, which is only $24.99/mo, even though it's at a slower speed than cable. But the savings per month is different. I think it's funny/ironic/sad that the company that basically made broadband mainstream now lags so fa
  • ...the US is "lagging behind" because a sufficient case hasn't been made for having universal broadband access in the first place?

    So far as I've seen, the only people that bring this up are trying to sell something. Politicians like talking about the US being "behind" other countries 'cause it sounds good and will get them votes, cable companies and telcos talk about it because it'll make them more money and magazines talk about it because it'll sell ads. If people are really clamoring for faster access to

  • Pure population density may not be the cause, but it might be a related factor. Consider states like North Dakota which, for years now has been seeing out-migration. Although the market may be good, there are a lot of people living there who want broadband access, the total population has been slowly decreasing as residents move to population centers in other States.

    If you are an investor or broadband provider, what motivates you to invest in infrastructure in a place where you will almost certainly have
  • The telcos have been too busy lobbying Congress and suing State/Local government to prevent "competition" from municipalities that they don't want to service anyway!

    Hmmm...let's see...under what conditions does an under-serviced market exist...

    Clue: it isn't in a capitalist free market.
  • It took us several years to break apart AT&T, just to get back essentially four phone companies in the USA. All of Judge Greene's decisions were subverted by a bribed congress. It's no wonder their stock price is low-- we hate them-- and they can't get sufficient capital. Add in the move from landlines (tip and ring) to mobile/cellular, and they struggle. It used to be easy to get rights-of-way, and infrastructure. Consolidation and debt load on the telcos caused massive problems, as did poor choices (A
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:33PM (#18028008) Journal
    He's on Rogers cable, he get's threatening letters every month about him going over his bandwidth cap. I live in the US, have comcast, and have never gotten a complaint - and I'm the leech/pirate/dude-who-pegs-his-bandwidth-at-100%-f or-months, not him. He plays xbox live, uses skype, and grabs the occaisional mp3. His cap is something ridiculous, a few gigabytes. They also f with him, blocking ports seemingly at random. They sent him a threatening letter for connecting to me using OpenVPN (we found the easiest way to play SNES roms online was to bridge him onto my LAN). The bandwidth we used on that session was minimal, but just the connection to 1194 pissed them off, I changed ports for him.

    I'd imagine if he ever downloads HDDVD movies, it'll have to be from rogers. He couldn't download them on XBox Video Marketplace, like I can right now, even if he wanted to. He'd hit the cap.

    My point is, yes, more of them have access to broadband, but what good does it do if it's basically capped at-or-around dial-up per-month limits, and has other arbitrary restrictions on it?
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:07PM (#18028672)
    The state of broadband in the US reflects its users. Lots of people in the US know very little about what occurs outside their borders. Most broadband customers feel that $50.00/mo. for a 3 Mbps/512k connection is normal. Furthermore, they think that is all they need. I've heard plenty of people sing the praises of Verizon's $20.00/mo. 768k/128k DSL....why? Because it is cheap, and faster than dial-up. In their minds, there is no reason to spend almost 3x as much for faster service.

    Thanks to this type of consumer, and local monopolies, $50.00 low-speed "broadband" is the norm in areas that have access to broadband.

    Remember the Tennessee Valley Authority from your history class? Why was it important?

    Our government realized that electricity was so important to the growth of our nation, that it could not be left to an unregulated market. Our government knew that if left to private industry, utility service would only be made available to densely populated areas. Our government needs to realize that high-speed data service now is as important as electricity or running water. For those that doubt that statement, try to apply for a job without using the internet. Sure, you can in some cases, but high-paying jobs almost require you to apply via electronic means.

    We need to vote for guys that make this a priority (not Ted Stevens).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goofballs ( 585077 )

      Remember the Tennessee Valley Authority from your history class? Why was it important?

      it's important because it shows what a bad idea having gov't run lun large projects is? the tva is essentially a $6B corporation carrying $29B in debt, subsidized by 250M people, so that 15M people can have chearper than normal electricity. yeah, sounds like a real winner to me. not.

  • by sn00ker ( 172521 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:44PM (#18030362) Homepage
    Try living in New Zealand [wikipedia.org], which is nearly at the bottom of the OECD [wikipedia.org] for broadband uptake. Our number of dialup connections is growing!

    Seriously, if the worst you've got to complain about is that you're 12th, with only four major companies supplying last-mile access, come here. We've got precisely two companies supplying the last mile, and in our largest city [wikipedia.org] we have only one choice [telecom.co.nz] for residential connections.

    Consider that NZ is at the top of the OECD for the percentage of the population that actually uses the 'net, so it's not like we're a bunch of technophobes. We're just catching it up the arse from a rapacious monopolist incumbent, which thankfully is about to be unbundled. So, sorry, but y'all should get a grip. You're in the top half, we're in the bottom quarter!

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.