Wi-Fi

United States trailing in Net access speed


The United States is lagging behind other countries when it comes to the speed at which citizens can connect to the Internet. Our median access speed is less than a 30th of Japan's, South Korea boasts a median speed over 22 times ours, and even France's median speed is more than eight times that of the United States. The truly mind-boggling part is the speed at which the rest of the world has overtaken us. It has only been a decade since the Internet really started to explode, and we are falling behind at an unbelievably rapid pace.

U.S. Net Access Not All That Speedy (ABC News)

There are signs that some of this is changing, as Verizon recently announced the one millionth customer of its broadband service, which operates over fiber that runs all the way to the customer's house. Wi-Fi is also helping some people achieve higher speeds, with many smaller communities beginning to set up their own municipal broadband and wireless services. Even Google is getting into the act, providing free Wi-Fi access to residents of its Silicon Valley home town.

Verizon's fiber-optic payoff (CNET)

Bringing public Wi-Fi to small-town America (CNET)

Look Homeward, Google (Wired)

It appears to me that the biggest reason we are lagging behind is pure, old-fashioned greed. Providers want to make maximum profits, so they artificially throttle down bandwidth so that they can sell "premium" packages with higher bandwidth. I don't have any problem at all with capitalism or profits, but I do take issue when companies hamstring their technology (I was aghast when the first 486SX models came out with the math coprocessor connection physically severed, even though it was still on the chip) in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

How do you see the "bandwidth gap" playing out? Will we once again be the fastest ones around, or have we ceded that position as we have marathons to Kenya? How fast is your connection at home, and is it sufficient for all that you want to do? Join the discussion.

35 comments
jlawrence
jlawrence

It's to the point where you don't even WANT to investigate an upgrade in bandwidth.... with all the fine print, you have to get a lawyer with a big magnifying glass to actually understand how much you will be paying for the upgrade. The 'bait and switch' or 'hidden information' tactics that marketing is using is just a nano away from unethical and deceptive, or am I just getting old and tired of the BS....?

Gary.Cooper
Gary.Cooper

Here in the US when it comes to communications we have to deal with more Monopolies than we do with open competition. Telephone/Cable companies own the rights to the cables/lines that run on Government and privately owned land. That's why we have a choice between long distance providers, but the local providers own the lines which we make the long distance calls. Same goes with the Cable companies. I live in the capital of Illinois and we have one cable company. They are unwilling to upgrade, because it will cost more money. I am still happy with the Cable speed that I get now over the supposedly 56K of 6 years ago. If I can be offered that same speed for free I'd be happy or if I got increased speed for the same price I'd be happy. I know it sounds like we are being robbed, but be grateful for what you have and enjoy.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Europe, that's EUROPE, socialist, red, commie Europe (not my words but those of most 'merkuns I chat with here) and you think the US has monopolies?????

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

We were the fourth DSL customers using the CO in our area when it became available, and since then I have not had less than a megabit in download speed. Currently our DSL circuit is rated at 3 mbps, which is 1.5 times the median. How does your speed compare to the median in the U.S. versus that of the other countries in the article? What do you think we should do about our lagging access speeds?

Frederick Q. Bear
Frederick Q. Bear

Here in Australia I have an ADSL2+ broadband connection to my house. This gives me 24Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up for the princely sum of $60AU/month. If I were to switch to an Annexe M router I would get up to 2.5Mbps up - perfect for all my remote access administration - don't you just love working from home?

Womble
Womble

Problem is not the cities - they have a population density that can make high speed connectivity worthwile Rural and low population areas are the problem- how can you make money when the cost to deploy vastly outweighs the return australias Rural answer is a Wimax solution Called OPEL which is being subsidised by the government see attached link http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,21982750-15306,00.html Theoretical download limit is 20MBS - practical is probably 8MBS

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

My speed sits between 10 and 12Mbps. -Canada I have found that Europe is light years ahead of North America for bandwidth, mobile technology, and gadgets in general. But som epeople will always believe we are the leaders, it keeps them happy though.

brian.mills
brian.mills

I'm currently paying $45/month for what Comcast advertised as 6Mbps download speed. I don't think they gave a figure for upload, but I'm sure it's capped somewhere around 384Kbps. I could switch to AT&T's ADSL, which has a few different speeds available at different prices, but to get anything that approaches my cable speeds would cost about what I'm paying now, plus the cost of the phone line that I don't have that would be required for ADSL to work. I'm mostly happy with my connection now. It doesn't always live up to advertised specs, but that's why they advertise the speed as "up to" 6Mbps. I think speeds should be pushed forward to accomodate new protocols, such as IPTV, but until those start taking off, I'll be happy with my current speed.

wmlundine
wmlundine

...until we abandon the notion of democracy and fairness (Net Neutrality). (At least according to AT&T et al.) George Ou calls it Net Stupidty and claims it will throttle an otherwise fat pipe.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

20Mbps Down 350Kbps Up Virgin Media in the UK

johnson12
johnson12

There is no real competition here in the us. I have one choice for high speed cable. ONE!! The providers are forever trying to make more profit without providing any additional services. What's worse congress was trying to help them do so, (anyone write their elected rep. in Washington on net neutrality?) I did. I have a bundled service and pay close to $60 a month for my little (advertised)3mbps pipe. Sad indeed compared to the rest of the world. Ahh to live in the land of the free(capitalist) :(

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

and get arrestd and whipped 10 times with a lash in Singapore because with their wonderful 'Benevolent Dictator Knows All' state, chewing gum is illegal in the country. You don't remember the american kid who vandalized with spray paint there got caught and whipped? The american press was all "don't whip the little snot". As I mentioned in one of my first posts, Singapore is a country with an urban area about the size of New York city so isn't too hard to wire it all with direct fiber. They don't have a Rocky MOuntains, vast plains in grain belt....

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

we've been over this before. the reasons are quite clear: 1) high bandwidth connections are subsidized in many countries for bragging rights by their govt and to mollify people so they can pull up stupid UTube videos quicker, or the Korean equivalent with dog poop girl who didn't pick up after her pooch on the subway. Or simply because they see this as 'strategic' and are not bound by the contraints of having people pay the actual cost for what they use. Subsidized services of all kinds create use for them that wouldn't be there if they were charged for what the service costs. 2) Many of the countries that have higher bandwidth averages are much closer together. I bet Singapore rates near the top since the whole country is one big city. DOesn't cost as much per person to wire high speed if closer together. Sure you say, wouldn't it be great for education, etc if everyone was hi-bandwidth. It is also good for time wasters, internet games and porn surfers as well as criminal hacking gangs and ddos attackers with zombie bot nets (who pay premiums for hi-bandwidth zombie PCs) I have nothing against hi-bandwidth but much of the serious biz that can be conducted on it can also be conducted at lower speeds, such as farmer in remote area selling his grain, and getting crop or weather reports. I simply feel victimized by big govt if they are subsidizing it for anyone else but a school or educational reasons. Greed - blah blah blah. Greed is good since it simply means that you are making money. Greed is simply interest in providing a service someone is willing to pay for and not losing money doing it. The hi-bandwidth providers here PAY taxes. There they COST taxes.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

Where there is a solidarity in desire for a service, it makes sense to socialize the service. As it becomes something that everyone needs, but not every has the same ability to pay for it, the only real solution ( for the common good ) is to socialize it to even the playing field. Just as Health Care, public transportation, and other common services can be run by a government in the interest of the people, so can Internet Access. The common person stands to gain in access to information and Internet services, while those who stand to lose are companies whose business model depends upon preying on unsuspecting customers. Basically, they want to milk it as much as the market will bear.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

about how the poor americans can't afford the $45/month for broadband and have to live with $10/no dialup or $30/mo DSL! And how some are actually TURNED DOWN for requests for greedy corporations to spend $50,000 per mile to run a line just to them and their 3 neighbors (who might not subscribe).

marshmallow59
marshmallow59

That here in Canada where apparently government subsidies stifle new technology, that we have better service, for cheaper. This because it's been regulated as an essential service (not the same level as phone access mind you, but getting there). When I can get 10 megabits down and 1 up for $50 canadian, and $50 american will get you 6 mbits, I think there's something *wrong* with the american system.

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

Monopolies are supposed to be granted their status as monopolies with the understanding that the profits they make in certain areas go to offset the connectivity of those more remote, etc. So there isn't supposed to be a 'hardship' due to where you live. I can see services being rolled out to those areas more slowly, but it shouldn't take 15 years. These days, dialup internet browsing isn't practical. Even TR would load pretty slowly, as would most news sites. There is just too much content (and background code) to load before you can see the whole page. Of course, the rural subsidy is really just a small equalizer from the monopoly's profits, they still make plenty of profits. So it's not a government wealth redistribution... SBC/Yahoo offers DSL for less than $20 per month. Depending on where you live, most people should be able to afford such things. Also, I don't know who made the comment earlier, you or someone else, but I'll address it here: Most poor people aren't buying plasma TVs. However, most poor people will need to purchase a new TV soon, as the government has forced broadcasters to go digital. Luckily, the government is subsidizing digital converters to make up for it. The news is just pretty slow.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

some of the posters spitting diatribs against me seeemd angry also seem very confused. I think I'm not popular as I'm not promoting giving something away to a special interest group (those who think their utube video and porn surfing should be subsidized). I don't like to pay $50 a month! I could buy bear and a fat-a-burgers for a couple days for that price! Someone seemed to dislike my post then gave an example of subsidized fiber that proved my point. I'd call phone service or dial up 'basic'. I wouldn't call broadband service 'basic' but perceptions are changing. In any case if it WAS to be subsidized I suggest that the money go as vouchers to be used for telcom only to people who have the 'hardship' of living in a beautiful rural area. and NOT as subsidies directly to big companies as that promotes monopolies.

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

The government is covering most of those examples by not taxing the lowest income people. Additionally, states and local governments often don't tax things like non-prepared foods, reading materials. Given that the average person pays taxes on many things, the government NOT taxing someone at the low income is like having them subsidized. Additionally, in the USA, we have things called food stamps, and most states have medical coverage for the poor. These things are considered basic, and better for the entire society. Large, very profitable businesses are usually the ones getting subsidies. This is the inequity of the system. I recommend focusing your anger towards them. Government subsidies can be used to help society in general, but this is just usually abused.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

So there's a solidarity in desire for shoes, does that mean the govt should build shoe factories? I'm sure we'd LOVE that! You sould like you don't even understand the basics of an economy. Do you know how stupid that makes your post sound? People have a 'solidarity' of desire for food, housing, cars, clothing! lets have the gov't supply them all! We can all wear gray, live in cruddy slab prefab flats that pancake together during a quake, drive a black (any color you want long as it's black) two stroke polluting engine. Everyone also wants a freeway ramp near their house so they don't have a traffic jam to work but we don't build it everywhere because they are very expensive. And running telcom infrastructure is very expensive. Why have gov't subsidize a tax paying money making business in the cities and suburbs. In the smaller areas not everyone wants it. Even if they did, if I have a house out a 5 mile dirt road, should the state be required to pay for it? My uncle does, in the northeast. BUt he does NOT want internet access. Should the state pay for wiring to him anyway, or to the movie stars who live way out in the Colorado hillsides or every ranch in Montana? What you are doing is KILLING any alternative technologies that in the end are much cheaper and more effective. You might kill fledgling ethernet over power lines. Or the mini-satellite data bis which has download over dish and upload over phone lines. or up and coming cellular router networks which can extend packets of wireless, encrypted, from the most remote reaches of common end users, who are in essence the ISP, out to whatever neighbors the packets can reach.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

But we are in fact being raked over the coals. I live in a relatively rural area, and have an acquaintance who has built a wireless ISP in one of the communities, because neither the ONE option for a Telco, nor the ONE option for a cable company will build out to their neighborhood, claiming it is too expensive for them to achieve a reasonable ROI. Interestingly, in two years time, my acquaintance has enough business that they will be able to singlehandledly pay for the DS3 that they are getting installed in less than 3 years. Of course. now that THEY are going to pay the infrastructure cost, said Telco will happily provide DSL - in direct competition with my acquaintance - on the infrastructure that he is paying for (had to agree to a 5 year commitment, in fact). So as you can see, we are in fact not getting the level of service that we could have, were it not for the need to pay the Multi-million dollar salaries of the CEO, CFO, etc... Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the fibre pull is infact being subsidized by a govt grant, to roughly 90% of the actual cost to install. So, my acquaintance will pay the full cost of the install In roughly 2 to 3 years, AND the telco got an up front grant for 90% of the cost from you and me. I'd grab the BIG jar of vaseline if I were you.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Those costs are included in my acquaintances bill as well. And he is looking at a 3 year ROI, I would hardly call that unprofitable. Sure, they are doing a very good job of upgrading areas with high population densities, and I imagine they are at least meeting minimum regulated requierments for rural build-out. I think you are right, there IS a reason they don't, and that reason is margin. The profit margins aren't good enough. I am not necessarily laying the blame at the feet of the corps. (Though one can certainly argue that the $10+ Million dollar salaries of many execs would provide a substantial amount of capital for those companies, with which they could improve the reach and quality of their product). Big, public corps. are generally beholden to their investors. And investors are more often than not interested in turning a quick buck. They are going to give their money to the companies that give them the best return. If a corp. wants(/needs) to obtain and retain that funding, then they must be VERY profitable. So, while I DO think greed is a key element, I don't think it is (all) the corporation's fault.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

everyone says 'greedy corporations' why don't they do exactly what I want? If they didn't build it out there is probably a reason. If they could have built it out and made money they probably would have. Just having subsidized broadband on the final loop to the consumer subsidized doesn't take care of allthe costs of adding that: massive investments in swtich gear need to be made to swtch tv on demand, utoob videos, voice on IP, etc. This is not free. and dark fibre on long hauls needs to be activated with swtich gear, and existing switch gear probably needs to be upgraded to faster, and once you're talking about long haul very high speed fibre transceivers, these aren't cheap when rolled out all over. Just because you think they should do it is not a cost analysis or biz plan. The network fairy waving her wand and going 'poof' with a cloud of orange smoke doesn't make it so. "Make it so" quoth Captn Piccard! And they ARE upgrading the systm to handle this in many areas. Verizon is spending $18billion upgrading in California for example.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

it doesn't cost much more to run fibre to your house, but it does cost them in the back end to start swtiching utube and tv on demand, constant voice calls, etc which will happen when they roll out huge amounts of bandwidth to the consumer.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

The subsidy money has/was been available for some time, and the community has been begging the telco to build out the service, but they wouldn't do it because it was just "too darn costly" for them, even with the subsidy. It really isn't the subsidy that is the problem, so much as it is the abuse of the system by the big corp.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Not ticked off at you at all. Just pointing out that the Telco's are not providing a competetive service to us (but they are more than happy to ride in on the small guys dollars, while at the same time pocketing $ from Uncle Sam). Just saying that for what we are paying, we should have better.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Sounds like folks in your area will need it. there you go! What I described is happening in your area. I'm against govt subsidies, it seems you should abe too. They're killing competition in your case with subsidized fiber. How that made you ticked off at me I'm not sure. But the "Blah Blah Blah Bandwidth Gap Blah Blah Blah" crowd is crowing for subsidies so every outhouse across the country is wired. If they didn't then innovative solutions like in your area would have occured. I even suggested this to Tech Locksmith when he said he was just beyond range of longest DSL line. But there's Amish in his are and they probably won't ever connect.

sales
sales

Join Telecom is bringing 100 Mbps in houses using FTTB/FTTH connections without any income from the gov't and the business works. Many telecom operators have associated into InterLAN, a local Internet Exchange (see www.interlan.ro). Low bandwidth is one big operator greed. ADSL=incapacity or inability or lazyness to pull fiber optics connections. Why accept slow connections when you can get higher bandwidth at the same price??? Everybody pays taxes. Not everybody pays millions of $$$ in management salaries. This is the difference.

ivor.boaz
ivor.boaz

Not sure why it seems you would take this subject personally, but nevermind; in any case, you know not of which you speak. I currently reside in Holland where not only is access speed faster, there are many choices (phone line, cable line, cell phone...) (none of whom is subsidized by the govt.), and the speed is regularly updated with faster speeds. I am soon moving to Germany (no small country that) and have discovered that my choices for internet access are once again increased even to that of Holland. I can, via the phone company, subscribe to an internet service of varying speeds, anywhere between 2Mb/sec to 8Mb/sec. Where or where in the US can one get 8Mb/sec over a phone line? Furthermore, again, this is not subsidized by any govt., this is wholly private enterprise. And the list of European countries where internet access continues development unabated goes on and on. Unequivocally, this is not happening because Europe is small, nor due to govt. subsidies. And you completely miss the point of capitalism. The point is not to get the most money out of the consumer, it is to give the consumer the most choice, thereby forcing the advancement of technology, forcing the providers to compete to provide a better product. Greed never leads to the customer being better served, never. Enjoy your slow access, since it's all you need, why the hell do you care?

nentech
nentech

Nice to have good choices

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

EU broadband not subsidized and faster? Great! Wish we had that. I do think the US is more spread out however. I don't take suggestion in the the original article that we have a broadband gap as a call for subsidies. I can just see stupid people: "It's in our national interest" "lets subsidize broadband to podunk, Idaho, 100 miles from the nearest telephone pole, out to the unibombers shack in the woods" "It's for the CHILDREN" blah blah blah. It looks like you're doing fine in EU w/o subsidies. Some small nations however thro money at it. Really stupid. So if it is slightly slower here? I enjoy it just fine. I downloaded 1.9 gig virtual machine last night, took under two hours. I'm sure it might be nice if it downloaded in one hour or two seconds. But I really don't care. Fast enuf now. The article wasn't talking about broadband vs broadband tho, but the total # of people on broadband vs dialup in various countries. Why should I pay tax money for connecting people to fast internet who don't even go to the library for example? And it is affordable anyway in most cities, dsl is $30/mo, cable about $45/month. The same 'poor' people who are running out buying LCD TVs or low-ridering their cars can afford it. They just have other priorities. Cities here are also trying to subsize wireless broadband. THey are plagued by poor reception inside homes. This reminds me of the early days of electricity when cities thought they could put a huge powerful light on a really tall tower and light up most of the city for very little cost. Another reason for broadband gap in US: for years some cities had restrictive regulations that slowed down or prevented TV cable in the area. Los Angeles is one such city where councilmen demanded payoffs from cable companies so they didn't get cable till 20 years later. This would affect cable based broadband as well which was available here well before dsl. Other restrictive regulations prevent competition. These comparisons are idiotic. Reminds me of the cold war where they were comparing soviet vs us nukes. ours were more accurate but they had 5 times more so there was a 'nuke gap' and we could only destroy them 10 times while they could destroy us 50 times. Have a nice day :)

Eternal
Eternal

We have private companies who provide to joe customer... cable, ADSL, wireless(not wifi). Both cable and DSL are up to 30Mb download with the premium packages, the wireless is 5-8Mb. We have a Gov funded "SuperNet" which was run to all the schools, libraries, gov type buildings like court houses, etc. I know the University I'm on uses it, we still pay for it, but it's cheaper and faster than a private sector solution. I inquired about getting a non-profit gov funded organization on it and I was told no, that I would have to go to a "Reseller" or private sector, I was somewhat shocked. Considering that it's already run to that building, just a different wing. So it would be nothing really to run 1 or 2 cat 5e or cat 6 lines over...

nentech
nentech

More choice does not equal better choice This is a mistake many people make Why would anyone want they same choice over and over What we want is many different choices But I understand what you are saying