Cities are trying to speed up broadband, running into incumbent opposition

The Wall Street Journal writes that cities are taking matters into their own hands to bring true broadband (i.e. FTTH) to their communities. Because the incumbents focus mostly on large cities, the smaller ones are getting left behind, so a few cities have built their own fiber networks.

Unfortunately, the incumbents have successfully lobbied some states to prohibit local governments from investing in fiber infrastructure. Why? Because the infrastructure will be open to all competitors and that is exactly what the incumbents don’t want: a good healthy dose of capitalistic competition. They want to monopolize the service (like the old monopoly state-owned telecom company here in the former German Democratic Republic — I am in Berlin right now).

Meanwhile, the article points out that “[t]he U.S. has fallen behind in speed, too. In the same study, conducted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, the U.S. ranked 15th in the average advertised download speed, at 4.9 megabits a second. That’s slower than the 17.6 megabits a second in France and the 63.6 megabits a second in Japan, which ranks No. 1 in this category. In other words, it takes a little over two minutes to download a movie on iTunes in Japan, compared with almost half an hour in the U.S. The average U.S. download speed is even slower, according to other estimates  . . . Other countries, such as France, have benefited from increased competition by governments forcing their former telecom monopolies to open their networks to new providers. In the U.S., the regional successors to the former Ma Bell resisted such regulatory efforts, arguing it made little sense for them to invest in their networks if forced to share them with potential competitors. As a result, in most markets in the U.S. there have been only two broadband providers, one telecom and one cable company. While some countries were aggressively trying to catch up to the U.S. Internet lead, “not much changed in the U.S.,” says Susan Crawford, a professor of Internet governance at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.

The WSJ article shows that the average price per megabit paid by a subscriber in France in Oct 2007 is $3.70, in Japan it’s $3.09, in the UK, $5.29, while in the US it’s $12.60. That’s a huge gap!


  1. Don’t be such a bandwidth tease, Ken — tell us more!