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Thoughts on Presidents Call for High Speed Internet

By 26 January 2011 3 Comments

In last nights State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called on America to rebuild to win the future.  Part of the rebuilding America effort that the President mentioned was High Speed Internet.  He additionally noted that,

Our infrastructure used to be the best – but our lead has slipped.  South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do.

Some thoughts on these two sentences:

“Our infrastructure used to be the best – but our lead has slipped.”

  • There is nothing to say that American Internet infrastructure is not the best in the world.  Infrastructure is not simply made up of the last-mile.  It is the middle-mile, and the back bone, servers, and CDN networks, etc and so forth.
  • Various arguments for what is “best” could be made here:
    • The Japanese have the most robust FTTH (Fiber-to-the-Home) penetration in the world. Is that best?
    • The South Koreans have the top speeds. Is that the best?
    • America easily has the most bandwidth capacity, most robust back bones, CDN networks, and the most people online. Is that the best?
  • The argument for bandwidth capacity allowing for the claim of best infrastructure is a strong one.  Americans have the most available content of anyone on the Internet, a large chunk of this being YouTube and Netflix.  If not for leading the world in capacity, these types of services delivered to the number of simultaneous users that enjoy them on a daily basis would likely not be possible.
  • Does it really matter if a country has the top speed or the most technologically advanced last-mile if they have no content to take advantage of those speeds or a back bone that can’t support the sophistication of the last-mile?
  • At some point, speed simply becomes a number to brag about if the entire infrastructure is not balanced to perform at high levels across the board.

“South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do.”

  • “Access” is tricky verbiage because it is unclear.  Most likely the President was purposefully vague.  Does access refer to availability, or does it refer to the ability to use the Internet at will?
    • If access refers to availability, then the data has shown repeatedly that 95% of Americans could get broadband Internet if they desired it; and,
    • Roughly 66% of the U.S. population has a broadband connection.
  • According to data released by Cisco this past fall, only one nation exceeded the United States in network traffic, South Korea.  However, in the Connectivity Scorecard reported that Consumer Usage & Skills, Business Infrastructure, and Business Usage & Skills are significantly behind the United States.  Meaning that the production from South Korea’s connectivity is mainly coming from government employees, while in the United States business sector individuals and consumers have better online skill sets and e-commerce is of much more importance to business and beneficial to the economy.
  • Which begs the question, why is their a desire to be like South Korea simply to boast high speeds when it is apparent from the data that America does what it does very well already?

If one takes a step back they will see that overall the United States infrastructure has more bandwidth capacity, has a more robust total infrastructure, can handle huge sums more connectivity than other countries, has more content, and better trained business people, higher skilled consumers, and richer e-commerce than anywhere else on Earth.

Can it be improved upon?  Absolutely.  But it will take enormous sums of investment dollars.  Consider that over the last two years Verizon and AT&T have spent roughly $30 billion on their private networks and the United States government struggled to pass a $7 billion broadband stimulus in 2009.  It will be very difficult for the President to find a way to invest the amount of tax dollars necessary to compete or exceed the investment of the private sector while additionally meeting the other promises he spoke of in the State of the Union like balancing the budget and reducing spending.

3 Comments »

  • Tweets that mention Digital Society » Blog Archive » Thoughts on Presidents Call for High Speed Internet -- Topsy.com said:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anne Peacock and thelobbyist.net, Digital Society. Digital Society said: Thoughts on Presidents Call for High Speed Internet: http://bit.ly/ee89j1 #sotu #netpolicy #nbp #broadband [...]

  • Michael Baumli said:

    You hit the nail on the head that we do need to improve. Our last mile is pretty pathetic. I am not talking about the rural areas where I live as much as comparing places like Manhattan Island which has the density yet lacks true competition to drive the consumer speeds up even further. We know our homes will utilize the service as Netflix would love to provide true HD movies to all, except for the fact of course they want to be subsidized to provide their service which they are already saving quite a bit by not mailing out DVDs.

    One of the things that allowed the United States to become the manufacturing powerhouse was investment on infrastructure we now call the Interstate Highway System. That allowed everyone to travel from point to point even quicker than before. One of the things that people fail to see on increased spending is investment on infrastructure is ongoing and should never be stopped. Currently I see a lot of last mile cable companies that refuse to improve their existing systems because they are too busy trying to milk their existing infrastructure. Now don’t hold me to the fact that they are probably trying to recover the cost of their existing expenditures, I am sure that there is much of that going on with balancing budgets and getting money back.

  • NickRBrown | Blog | Thoughts on Presidents Call for High Speed Internet said:

    [...] Originally published at DigitalSociety. [...]

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