Last updated: February 20, 2008 - 11:49pm
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Jesse Drucker]
The good news for Web-surfing American households is that the cost of entry-level, high-speed Internet service is falling, thanks to competition between telephone and cable companies. The bad news is that even at these low prices you're not getting much for your money. What passes for entry-level broadband service -- the most heavily marketed since summer -- is downright sluggish in the U.S. compared with that in many other countries; and not just in tech-crazed locales like Korea and Japan, but also in the likes of France. The inferior value of U.S. broadband service becomes clear when you calculate the monthly "cost per megabit" of Internet access, or how much you pay to get a megabit's worth of download capability. The very definition of broadband in the U.S. isn't keeping up with the increasingly sophisticated ways a consumer uses the Web. The FCC defines "high speed" as 200 kilobits in at least one direction. That may have been speedy in 1995, but it's pretty pokey in 2005, when speed should be measured in megabits -- at least five times as fast -- instead. Michael Gallagher, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the U.S. Commerce Department arm that advises the White House on policy, says the best way to get universal, affordable broadband is to leave things to the competitive market.
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