Wire New York: The Truth About Broadband

Are you happy with your Internet connection speed? Glad to have that zippy broadband access and always carping at your cheap-ass dad to finally make the upgrade? Yep. You’ve got Road Runner, so you should be proud.

Or should you? While you’re mulling over your support for the Brodsky Telecom Bill (aka, Wire New York), consider this: of the top 18 most expensive broadband countries, Americans rank 17th, paying $36 compared to an average $43. Good so far, but what about quality of service? Well, we only get about 1.9mbps (megabits per second) download speed, as opposed to Japan’s fifth most expensive market, where the speed is around 61mbps. You don’t need to be a computer whiz, a mathematician or even Exile on Ericsson St. to see that $49 for Japanese broadband is a far-and-away better deal.

And if that makes you sick, read about the latest record-setter in broadband speed, once again, not in the US:

The Local – Sigbritt, 75, has world’s fastest broadband

A 75 year old woman from Karlstad in central Sweden has been thrust into the IT history books – with the world’s fastest internet connection.{{snip}}

Sigbritt will now be able to enjoy 1,500 high definition HDTV channels simultaneously. Or, if there is nothing worth watching there, she will be able to download a full high definition DVD in just two seconds.

No word on what that will cost, but can you even imagine such speeds without paying for some commercial-grade service like a shared T1? Of course not.

Does it get worse? Oh, yes. Much, much worse below the fold:

The OECD (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) currently tracks broadband numbers worldwide, and the results are not at all pretty for the U.S. Specifically, they track broadband coverage and deployment around the world, as it has been proven that broadband coverage and general economic health tend to go hand in hand. The United States is stagnating badly, falling below the average growth for the globe and falling to number 25 in broadband penetration.

Bridging the Digital Divide

Part of the reason for this drop is that major metropolitan areas in the U.S. are largely covered by broadband, and what remains are the miles and miles of open rural areas. Laying the pipes that bring the Internet to people in the sticks will cost more and provide less profit than Big Telco is willing to suffer. To some extent, it is natural to see this decline and even predictable that we would fall behind much smaller countries in Europe with less rural areas.

Natural and predictable, that is, in a nation where the “invisible hand” of the marketplace is the only guiding influence. As the CWA (Communications Workers of America) points out in a recent report to Congress(PDF), the United States is the only industrialized country without a national policy to promote broadband Internet access for all people. Contrary to the harping you hear in some quarters, having such a policy does not always require passing putative laws and cracking down on telcos – such laws probably do more harm than the good that could be achieved by providing incentives, grants and other assistance – but it does mean a leadership that is involved in the process.

The Brodsky Bill provides us with an involved state government, dedicated to the introduction of broadband Internet access from Long Island to Grand Island. We can be a ground-breaking leader among states of this union by setting an aggressive network agenda and tying that to strong Net Neutrality language that preserves and codifies, for the first time in our Nation’s history, the legal precedent of free and fair-access Internet that is as important to our democracy as the free press.

And how about that “fair access,” thing? For those of us with broadband, how does our access stack up? Fair or unfair?

Getting Our Money’s Worth

Broadband service providers in this country complain that the increase in video and audio streaming, downloading and other activities on the net has bogged down their systems. To compensate for this lagging (in that “series of tubes,” as you may recall), the Big Telcos of the U.S. propose a two-tiered Internet setup that allows larger files to travel down a second, more expensive channel of the Internet than conventional traffic. This is the ransom they levy to charge to relieve the nominal bottlenecks.

But is this the best we can ask for? Our Internet connection speeds do not come close to matching those of other nations, and our cost does not compare to the value at all. Just contrasting South Korea, France, Japan, Sweden and Canada, some of the top-ranking nations by price and by bandwidth, we find that South Koreans are charged approximately $0.68 per megabit per second as compared to our own charge of – get this – $18.95 per megabit per second. One U.S. dollar buys 1.47 megabits per second in S. Korea, and it buys .0528 megabits per second here. Even in the expensive Japanese market, customers are charged a mere $0.80 per megabit per hour.

It would be enough to say that more of our state and our nation deserves the opportunity to share in the wealth, information and community that the Internet brings. But the social justice of Internet access is not just about coverage, it’s about the quality of the broadband we are paying for.  When it comes to bandwidth (the speed at which you download information), even folks in cushy Manhattan penthouses and beyond are
getting shafted.

So, when telecoms in the US say they need to split the Internet into two tiers, keep in mind that other countries are getting far, far better Internet access than we without any such mechanism.

We can do better, and it can happen in New York. Please call the governor and tell him you want to start the American Internet Renaissance here in New York State. Tell him you support the Brodsky Telecom Bill.

518-474-8390

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.

5 replies on “Wire New York: The Truth About Broadband”

Thanks, but Thomas totally blew me out of the water on this one.

DFE, I know you usually don’t do it, but could you crosspost this on RT, too, please? It’s too good not to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible.

Thanks for the compliments, guys!

I’d been planning on posting something else related to the NN/WNY issue on TAP soon, anyway. I’ll work on it this weekend and post a link to this article on it as well.

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