Broadband: Open up those highways

Rapid internet services are a boon. But not all regulators understand themIn eras past, economic success depended on creating networks that could shift people, merchandise and electric power as efficiently and as widely as possible. Today’s equivalent is broadband: the high-speed internet service that has become as vital a tool for producers and distributors of goods as it is for people plugging into all the social and cultural opportunities offered by the web.Easy access to cheap, fast internet services has become a facilitator of economic growth and a measure of economic performance. No wonder, then, that statistics show a surge in broadband use, especially in places that are already prosperous. The OECD, a rich-country club, says the number of subscribers in its 30 members was 221m last June — a 24% leap over a year earlier. But it is not always the most powerful economies that are most wired. In Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, over 30% of inhabitants have broadband. In America, by contrast, the proportion is 22%, only slightly above the OECD average of just under 20%.In terms of speed, Japan leads the world. Its average advertised download speed is 95 megabits per second. France and Korea are ranked second and third, but are less than half as fast, and the median among OECD countries is not much more than a tenth. America’s average speed is supposed to be a bit above the median, but most users find that it isn’t, or that the faster speeds are vastly more expensive. A New Yorker who wants the same quality of broadband as a Parisian has to pay around $150 more per month.
http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10534573

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