We Americans Like Speed, So Let Us Have It!
There was a recent study that provided a revised view of the Internet Structure in the U.S. The Global information Technology Report was released a few weeks ago. The study was done by Insead, the French business school, on behalf of the World Economic Forum. The conclusion was that the Internet infrastructure of the United States is one of the world’s best. This, of course, is a different conclusion than recent opinion that suggested the U.S. is lagging far behind the rest of the world. The report used an index generated from 68 variables including market factors, technological infrastructure and political and regulatory environments, rather than just bandwidth capacity and data transmission speeds. The U.S. is now ranked fourth in the world behind Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. A year ago the U.S. was ranked seventh. The overall emphasis of this recent study is that national comparisons cannot just be made on speed alone National political, regulatory and economic factors must all be included in any in depth analysis. Market conditions can enhance or inhibit bandwidth development and usage. The U.S. more than many other countries is moving forward with less cultural, regulatory or market restrictions than many other countries. This is all good news to Americans who are increasingly integrating the use of high speed Internet connections into their professional and personal lives. As oil continues its long term run-up in price, high speed connectivity will become an ever increasing factor in the growth of productivity and economic activity worldwide. Every country must awaken to this reality. Goals to constantly upgrade and expand fiber optic networks will be essential for national and global economic health, particularly in this era of ever increasing energy costs. What is troubling about the report is that it points out that while the U.S. has higher broadband availability than many countries, it has lower adoption rates. More U.S. customers have retained dial-up services than most countries. This might be largely due to both price and the lack of attractive broadband services. If the speeds offered were significantly faster and lower in costs, there would obviously be a higher level of subscription. Remember also that the U.S, is much larger that the three countries ranked above it. The comparatively vast distances provide greater barriers at this time than in smaller equally developed countries. What bothers this observer is that the speed of high speed Internet connections in the U.S. lags significantly behind those of other countries. Most users in the U.S. have either single or low double digit speeds measured in megabits per second. The high speed FIOS service that Verizon is offering is promising a comparatively fast 50 megabits per second, much faster than the average speed used by most households. However, compare that to the 100 megabit services commonly available in Europe. Currently Japanese service providers are offering speeds of 1 gigabit, 20 times faster that the FIOS. These higher speeds will be game changers in many businesses.Think about the downloading of movies, TV programs and any other form of video. A movie that might now take more than an hour to download will take only 4-6 minutes with truly high speed connectivity. The U.S. holds most of the world speed records in almost any category one could think of. We are an impatient people raised to expect immediate gratification. This recent report indicates that we have the technology capability to handle much faster speeds than we are being offered. Don’t you think it is time to use our impatience and need for ever faster everything to press for what other countries regularly provide to their citizens? This is truly one of those cases where faster is always better. We should vote for politicians that, instead of promising a “chicken in every pot,” promise us 100 or more megabits per second. Let’s make that as American as apple pie!