States lagging in broadband

The United States trails many developed nations in broadband penetration. Will U.S. carriers be able to catch up?

Has the United States missed the broadband boat? Several articles have been published recently, by Reuters, BusinessWeek and Broadbandreports.com saying it has.

The doom and gloomers refer to figures from a report published by the Organization for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2003 that states the U.S. has dropped from third to tenth in broadband penetration--behind countries such as South Korea, Japan, Belgium and Canada.

These articles argue that even though carriers in the United States are starting to sign up more subscribers, their services' speeds are much slower--and yet more expensive--than in other countries.

So why is are the states so far behind? The main reason given has to do with the regulatory environment. As the Federal Communications Commission tries to untangle how the 1996 Telecommunications Act should be interpreted, the Baby Bells have manipulated the market by stalling and dragging their feet at every turn. For example, even though the Bells don't really want to spend money to build facilities in rural areas where the population is less dense, they also do everything they can to block communities that want to build their own broadband networks.

Another major contributor to low broadband penetration in the states is the fact that it's just too expensive. I even considered getting rid of my broadband connection this year, because my bills had gotten out of control. I pay $40 a month for broadband access in New York. That is on top of a $45 cable bill, a $60 unlimited local and long-distance telephone plan and a $50 cell phone bill. Considering that I spend at least eight hours a day at work, where I am not using any of these services, I figured that it was time to start looking for ways to cut back. Broadband is a nice convenience for me but not a necessity. I'm sure that I am not the only person who feels this way.

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About the author

Marguerite Reardon has been a CNET News reporter since 2004, covering cell phone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate, as well as the ongoing consolidation of the phone companies. E-mail Maggie.

 

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