A question for the candidates

Here’s my question for the candidates in the CNN/YouTube Democrats’ debate:

I say I’m worried about the digital divide — between America and the world. The U.S. has fallen to 25th place in broadband penetration worldwide. Our broadband access costs, on average, 12 times more than Japan’s and 7 times more than South Koreas, yet Japan’s is 12 times faster than ours and Korea’s 9.5 times faster. So I ask the candidates: Will you pledge today to assure all Americans affordable — open — high-speed internet access and how will you do it? This is a necessity for our economy, education, culture, and future.

  • http://www.timworstall.com Tim Worstall

    Why on earth do you want politicians involved in such an obviously market area?

    http://news.com.com/South+Korea+leads+the+way/2009-1034_3-5261393.html

    “”I think there are a quite a few lessons,” said Taylor Reynolds, an International Telecommunications Union analyst who recently completed a survey of Internet and mobile services in South Korea. “Most of the growth is tied to effective competition, which you don’t see in a lot of places in the United States.”

    The Seoul government’s clearly articulated vision for modernizing the country’s infrastructure stands in stark contrast to the regulatory morass that has stunted development in U.S. telecommunications for several decades. South Korea’s policy–the cornerstone of a national technology initiative to help revive a devastated economy–has created true broadband competition, which in turn has helped prices fall and speeds rise.”

    What you want is for politicians to have no policy on such matters so that they don’t get in the way of the market solution, surely?

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Tim,
    I want to hear what they say. There are many ways to get involved. The best is probably to find ways to instill competition. We don’t have a market solution now.

  • http://www.trevorcarpenter.com Trevor Carpenter

    Way to go Jeff. I’m proud of you.

    “Competition” Now you’re starting to sound like a right-wing capitalist.

    There’s hope for you yet.

    I agree. I think we should break away from using terms that segment the digital communications industries. They used to be, TV, telephone, etc. Now they’re all just giving us access to digital communications.

    Before you know it we’ll be paying two bills.
    1. For outrageous hard-wired access to the internet, at home.
    2. For wireless access to our phone/PDA thingy.

    Once they all realize that we no longer need only them, that we can choose someone else, we’ll all benefit.

  • http://www.technologyevangelist.com Ed Kohler

    Great question. I look forward to hearing responses from candidates on this critical question about the future of our economy.

  • Greg0658

    One point about the 2 examples, Japan and S.Korea are each the area of one of our 50 United States.

    That’s also our troubles with highways, mass transit, high power lines and tv/radio/cable. A more expansive area to service.

    Thats only a point, but not much of an excuse for 25th place. I wonder where Russia or Canada is ranked?

  • http://jonnygoldstein.com jonny goldstein

    Great issue, Jeff. We may indeed have challenges that Japan and Korea don’t in terms of distances, varying technology standards, and so on, but all the more reason to put some thought into this.

    My guess is that government has a role in promoting faster and more widespread broadband, probably by ensuring more competition by breaking up monopolies and duopolies.

    Have we opened our markets to Japanese and Korean broadband companies? Maybe they can get us wired up faster and better.

  • http://cookingupastory.com Fred Gerendasy

    This country is a different political beast than the countries referred to above. America, especially under the Bush administration abhors government intervention into private industry.

    The problem many of us face is the almost religious belief in the economic market to self regulate itself, that is, achieve an equilibrium through open competition that will balance the public interests from the more narrow interests of corporate America.

    In truth, as George Soros points out in his “far from equilibrium theory”, markets are inherently unstable, and do a poor job of dealing with social needs. The internet represents a “public good”, and is to a large extent responsible for the incredible leaps of productivity in this country, and elsewhere in the world. It is exactly the role of government to protect and promote the welfare of such a “public good” for all citizens, and within a framework of rules that allows for the private sector to openly compete and prosper.

    But lets face it. Large corporate America largely controls government, and the pendulum has swung (in my opinion) too largely toward the interests of industry. There are large economic forces at work that would like to tax the internet, and bleed every red cent from its usage.

    Tom Petty may have said it best, in his song “The Last DJ”, in a prophetic line that goes as follows: ” As we celebrate mediocrity, the boys upstairs just want to see, how much you’re willing to pay, for what you used to get for free”.

    Come to think of it, that may be the perfect definition for “progress”…

  • james

    Faster doesn’t mean better. More TV channels doesn’t give us “better” programs. On the other hand, cheaper basic service may give the opportunity for more households to have access to the internet which would be the first step to narrow the “digital divide”
    The government could provide “incentives” for companies to service inexpensive basic access like they do with telephone service and air broadcast.

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