A branch of the U.S. government, the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, created the Internet, and Al Gore and other statesmen enacted legislation to make the resources of the Internet available to the general public. The Internet is an American creation.
So how is it that the French offer broadband Internet service more than three times as fast at half the cost that we Americans pay? I can remember when Americans mocked the French for their inefficient telephone system and other public services. That was then. Things are different now.
The difference in speed makes no difference to a casual Internet user such as myself. But it would make a great deal of difference to an information-intensive business in a highly competitive market. Internet service is part of the infrastructure we hear so much about, and it has to be maintained and upgraded, just like bridges, airports and levees.
I’m not sure why other countries should have gotten ahead of the United States on this. We Americans are just as intelligent and enterprising as we always were, and our country has more than its share of scientists, engineers and other professionals.
One possible answer is in Federal Communications Commission policy. A 1996 law requires telephone and cable companies to provide equal access to rival telecommunications companies. In 2005, George W. Bush’s FCC reclassified Internet service providers as information companies, which freed telephone and cable companies to create local monopolies. Without competition, there is no incentive to upgrade service. If this is the root of the problem, then it is hard to see why Barack Obama’s FCC does not reclassify ISPs as telecom companies.
Click on Internet Speeds Around the World for the source and context of the infographic above.
Click on Akamai State of the Internet Report for a report on Internet services with international comparisons.
Click on Over 2 Billion Internet Users Worldwide for more information on Internet services worldwide.
Click on An Internet for Everybody for analysis in the New York Times by Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy.
Click on Come to the United States for slow and expensive Internet and Where is fast cheap broadband? Not in the United States for analysis by Erich Veith, a St. Louis attorney.