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)
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.