Posted by: Tony Carson | 1 November, 2007

What countries are tops in high-speed internet?

The inventor of the internet is slipping precipitously on its high-speed uptake. Why? Lack of regulations, aka market economics, according to this article Is US Stuck in Internet’s Slow Lane?

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – a 30-member club of nations – compiles the most often cited international comparison. It puts the U.S. at 15th place for broadband lines per person in 2006, down from No. 4 in 2001.

The OECD numbers have been vigorously attacked by anti-regulation think tanks for making the U.S. look exceedingly bad. They point out that the OECD is not very open about how it compiles the data. It doesn’t count people who have access to the Internet at work, or students who have access in their dorms.

“We would never base other kinds of policy on that kind of data,” said Scott Wallsten, director of communications policy studies at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank that favors deregulation over government intervention.

“We’re now in the middle of the pack of developed countries,” said Dave Burstein, telecom gadfly and the editor of the DSL Prime newsletter, during a sometimes tense debate at the Columbia Business School’s Institute for Tele-Information.

Burstein says the U.S. is lagging because of low levels of investment by the big telecom companies and regulatory failure.

Several of the European countries that are doing well have forced telephone companies to rent their lines to Internet service providers for low fees. The ISPs use them to run broadband Digital Subscriber Lines, or DSL, often at speeds much higher than those available in the U.S.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission went down this regulatory road a few years ago, but legal challenges from the phone companies forced it to back away.

And then there is the question: what is high speed?

In South Korea the average apartment can get an Internet connection that’s 15 times faster than a typical U.S. connection. In Paris, a “triple play” of TV, phone and broadband service costs less than half of what it does in the U.S.

“Twenty percent of the U.S. is getting a decent network,” Burstein acknowledges. The new network can match or outdo the 100 megabits per second Internet service widely available in Japan and Korea, but Verizon isn’t yet selling service at that speed.

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