Highway Robbery for High-Speed Internet
Paul Waldman writes in The American Prospect:
If you’re one of those Northeastern elitists who reads The New York Times, you turned to the last page of the front section Friday and saw an op-ed from a Verizon executive making the case that “the United States has gained a global leadership position in the marketplace for broadband,” and don’t let anyone tell you different. “Hey,” you might have said. “Didn’t I read an almost identical op-ed in the Timesjust five days ago?” Indeed you did, though that one came not from a telecom executive but from a researcher at a telecom-funded think-tank. And if you live in Philadelphia, your paper recently featured this piece from a top executive at Comcast, explaining how, yes, American broadband is the bee’s knees.
That smells an awful lot like a concerted campaign to convince Americans not to demand better from their broadband providers. Perhaps they’re trying to influence the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who has been named by President Obama but not yet confirmed (they probably don’t have to worry; the nominee, Tom Wheeler, is a former lobbyist for telecom companies). Or perhaps they just want to make sure the public isn’t overly affected by the public-interest groups that for years have been complaining that compared to other advanced countries, the broadband Americans have is spotty, slow, and absurdly overpriced.
The telecoms are right about one thing: In the last few years, broadband speeds have improved. Instead of being ranked in the 20s or 30s when it comes to the average speed of their internet, America by at least one measure has cracked the top ten. We still trail Japan and Hong Kong and Switzerland and Latvia and South Korea and … well, you get the idea. But it has gotten better.
But we’re paying for what we get—oh boy, are we ever paying.
There is blazing fast internet available in America—if you live in the right place. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, around half of Americans have access to service with download speeds over 100 megabytes per second. That’s a big increase over just a few years ago; in 2010, only one in 10 Americans could access those speeds. But access is all but meaningless if the service is so outrageously expensive that only a few people can afford it. Last year, Comcast debuted its “Xfinity Platinum” service, delivering 300 megabytes per second—for an unbelievable $300 a month. Verizon’s Fios Quantum gives the same speed for a mere $200 a month. If you’re in Hong Kong, you can get 1 gigabit service—over three times as fast—for less than $50. . .
Continue reading. It’s odd that the US is so backward in its broadband speed. Some is due to wide-open spaces, but that doesn’t apply to the Boston-Washington corridor.