Monday, July 04, 2005

Thomas Bleha on failing U.S. broadband leadership

Thomas Bleha's article "Down to the Wire" in May/June issue of Foreign Affairs calls out the canary in the coal mine awaiting the U.S. in technical innovation.

"Once a leader in Internet innovation, the United States has fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband and the latest mobile-phone technology. This lag will cost it dearly. By outdoing the United States, Japan and its neighbors are positioning themselves to be the first states to reap the benefits of the broadband era: economic growth, increased productivity, and a better quality of life." - or so goes the summary.

"Today, nearly all Japanese have access to "high-speed" broadband, with an average connection speed 16 times faster than in the United States -- for only about $22 a month. Even faster "ultra-high-speed" broadband, which runs through fiber-optic cable, is scheduled to be available throughout the country for $30 to $40 a month by the end of 2005. And that is to say nothing of Internet access through mobile phones, an area in which Japan is even further ahead of the United States."

Granted, Bleha identifies one culprit - a administration focusing its efforts elsewhere:

"The lag is arguably the result of the Bush administration's failure to make a priority of developing these networks. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized state without an explicit national policy for promoting broadband."

At least one state, Kentucky, has a state-wide effort at the moment. (Note this isn't New York California... or some other state recognized as a leader in innovation) See www.connectkentucky.org for more information on Gov. Ernie Fletcher's goal to bring "broadband" to every Kentuckian by 2007.

But in Kentucky's efforts - is it sticking to the FCC definition of "broadband" - 200 Kbps? A successful Kentucky effort would lead it well ahead of every other state in the U.S. But even if that goal was met - Bleha points out that this speed is "about one-hundredth of the speed of typical broadband in Japan today."

Note: This Foreign Affairs article has been out in discussion for some time - well before this blog was created.

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