The Terrible State of U.S. Internet Service

Speaking of data communication, Susan Crawford, reporting for Bloomberg, suggests that Internet access should become a regulated utility like water, telephone, and electricity such is its necessity for the economic well-being of the country.

The current 4 Mbps Internet access goal is unquestionably shortsighted. It allows the digital divide to survive, and ensures that the U.S. will stagnate.

A smarter goal would be to give most Americans access to reasonably priced 1 Gb symmetric fiber-to-the-home networks. This would mean 1,000 Mbps connections, speeds hundreds of times faster than what most Americans have today. Only fiber can meet the growing demand for data transmission.

Think of it this way: With a dialup connection, backing up 5 gigabytes of data (now the standard free plan offered by many storage companies) would take 20 days. Over a standard (3G) wireless connection, it would take two and a half days. Over a 4G connection it would be more than seven hours, and over a cable DOCSIS 3.0 connection, an hour and a half. With a gigabit fiber-to-the-home connection, it can be done in less than a minute. [...]

The Internet has taken the place of the telephone as the world’s basic, general-purpose, two-way communication medium. All Americans need high-speed access, just as they need clean water, clean air and electricity. But they have allowed a naive belief in the power and beneficence of the free market to cloud their vision. As things stand, the U.S. has the worst of both worlds: no competition and no regulation.

This is the belief I have long held when it comes to Internet access in America. It would be nice to see Obama move the needle on this effort during his second term since it only costs $50-$90 billion to make this a reality. Not holding my breath, however.

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