Not that you didn’t have enough to feel bad about, what with unemployment still over 10 percent and health care reform hanging by a thread. But a new report on global broadband shows that the country that invented the Internet, the microchip, and most of what makes our global digital village possible ranks a pathetic 18th in broadband speeds. The top spot is taken, as usual, by South Korea, where their smoking fast connections give them an average speed over three times as fast as what our pokey little modems give us. We also don't score too well when it comes to broadband penetration (the proportion of households that have broadband, as opposed to the actual speed people are getting). Our slow broadband is also really expensive. So that's nice.
Why are we so far behind? There are multiple reasons, but the most important one is probably that we don't have enough big government. With a combination of public infrastructure investments and regulations forcing ISPs to share lines, other countries have driven down prices and driven up speeds.
The stimulus bill President Obama signed in February provided $7.2 billion for various projects to increase the spread of broadband, and instructed the Federal Communications Commission to come up with a plan to achieve universal high-speed access. The FCC has a nice website called broadband.gov, where you can learn that in 57 days, the plan will be ready.
Maybe that plan will be pure genius, and maybe it will be a joke -- we'll see when it's done. But one thing to keep in mind when we're agonizing over the fate of the big-ticket legislative items on the progressive agenda is that a year ago, the executive branch was populated by people who not only didn't really give a damn about things like whether Americans had access to high-speed Internet, but were actively working, every day, to undermine progressive goals. Today, the administration is populated by people who care about this stuff, and are trying to do something about it. At least that's something.
-- Paul Waldman