Internet traffic is booming and yet the United States ranks fifteenth among major industrial countries in average broadband speed at 4.9 megabits per second. This means it takes two minutes plus to download an average sized movie in Japan through iTunes whereas in the U.S., the same download takes nearly thirty minutes. This is in a country where most of the infrastructure, going back to DARPA in the seventies, originated.

Some sample speeds of various countries are below taken from the Wall Street Journal based on October 2007 data of the OECD and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

COUNTRY MBPS
Japan 63.6
South Korea 49.5
Finland 21.7
France 17.6
Sweden 16.8
Netherlands 8.8
Portugal 8.1
Norway 7.7
Canada 7.6
Austria 7.2
Belgium 6.3
Iceland 6.1
Germany 6.0
UNITED STATES 4.9
Denmark 4.6
Italy 4.2
Slovak Republic 3.5
Hungary 3.3
Luxembourg 3.1
United Kingdom 2.6
Average 9.2

 

We rank eleventh in terms of broadband-access affordability and tenth in broadband penetration. Cost per megabit is $12.60 versus $3.09 in Japan or $5.29 in England. Only 57% of American households have broadband compared with 93% in South Korea.

It’s time for a unified broadband policy in the United States, something the presidential candidates need to spend more time developing with their policy experts. Although not a critical issue at present, information technology is a big income generator for this country. We need to ensure we aren’t left behind the rest of the world. I believe a national board of some type should be set up to develop goals on how we want this infrastructure to look in the next 5 to 10 years, including broadband access for schools where affordability can be a problem, and what mix of private versus public investment is desired.

 

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