Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Broadband in the US

There is an alright article about the state of broadband in the US over at I don't agree with a lot of what the author says. He makes the case that the US is way behind in broadband deployment, and I think he is just wrong. He casually dismisses the argument that the US is intrinsically a more rural country (more people living farther from one another) by pointing to Canada, without any mention of how most people in Canada are clustered near the border. He also picks out specific cities and says the geography argument "Cannot explain why densely populated cities such as San Francisco do not have access to the same types of high-speed connections found in Seoul, South Korea, or Tokyo." Well, it can in fact explain it if you look at all cities in the US versus all cities in South Korea. I would imagine that you will have a preponderance of large US cities having great broadband (like the options we can get in Arlington, VA of 15 Mbps DSL from Verizon), even compared to the excellent service I am sure they must enjoy in Seoul. Also, he uses metrics that don't really mean much to customers, saying that 384 kbps is abysmally slow for high speed internet, without revealing that for most people (in all countries) that is a great speed, because people don't host websites from their homes. People use their home connections to download primarily, and not upload, and I would argue that creating a system that is synchronous would be wildly wasteful, when most people are happy with asynchronous connections. However, I do support the assertions about the cable companies and the phone companies needing to get up off their hides instead of trying to introduce legislation to restrict municipal internet connections. That was spot on. Over all, a good read if you take it with a critical eye.


Anonymous said...


In Loudon County VA, home to AOL, over 1/3 of households have no access to broadband at all.

I live 1 mile outside of DC, and can't get DSL from verizon -- AT ALL!

The rural arguement you make is lame. Check out "Broadband Reality Check" by Consumers Union. They show that even controlling for population density, the US is still behind most other OECD countries.

And upload speeds do matter. When's the last time you tried to upload 100 digital photo's to Snap Fish?

The fact is the FCC defines "high-speed" too low, and rolls over for the Cable & Telco's.

What about spectrum? I like the arguement for using the TV channels for wi-fi.

benhood said...

You are wrong. According to the Broadband Reality Check, the US is 9th out of 30 countries when adjusted for overall population density. You said that the US is behind most, but we are assuredly not. Also, it is important to realize that the placement of population probably is more important than overall population density, just as I was saying with regards to most Canadians living along the border. Iceland, one of the countries ahead of us, has only 7.4% percent of its population in rural areas; Denmark only 14% in rural areas.

As for uploading pictures to Snapfish, I only do that occasionally, compared to downloading things from the internet, which I do constantly. There is only so much frequency a copper wire can carry, so if I have to choose limits, I would much rather have a slower upload speed than synchronous but slower upload and download speeds.

The only problem I have with using the TV spectrum is that I want people to be able to get TV for free (with an antenna), instead of having to pay for cable. I have never had cable, and I have enjoyed the free network stations, and I would like it to stay that way. However, maybe too much spectrum is locked up on TV, and some of it could be released for broadband. I would have to delve more into the technical issues to find out if that were a good idea.