If the aspirations of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski seem unrealistic, just compare the Internet deployment in the United States today with the rest of the world.
More than 100 million Americans that could and should have broadband access don’t have it at all. That’s an adoption rate of roughly 65 percent of U.S. households, compared with 88 percent adoption in Singapore and 95 percent adoption in South Korea.
The U.S. adoption rate is even lower than 65 percent among low-income, minority, rural, tribal and disabled households. Unemployed Americans lack sufficient Internet access, even though job postings are increasingly online only. Millions of Americans are being left behind.
Genachowski said the United States is at “a crossroads” for Internet deployment and said it is essential to future economic development.
“For while the United States invented the Internet, when it comes to broadband we have fallen behind. One frequently cited survey ranks us 16th in the world; others rank us a few places higher,” he said. “But no one can argue that we are leading the world in broadband, or are even as close as we should be. And I can tell you from speaking to my counterparts in other countries, the rest of the world is not sitting around waiting for us to catch up.”
He said more than 20 countries already have broadband plans and are pushing to capture the jobs and economic advantages that broadband enables. “Look at Shenzhen, China. In the 1980s it was a fishing center,” he said. “Today, it is a city of 12 million that produces about 25 percent of the world’s cell phones.”
The United Sates continues to fall in worldwide broadband penetration and now ranks below 25th, said the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The United States is much lower in terms of broadband speed and cost, led by Korea, Japan, Finland, France, Sweden and many other countries.
Last year, the United States was ranked 18th in the world with an average broadband speed of 3.9Mb/s. In the third quarter of 2009, the average broadband connection speed in South Korea was 14.6Mb/s — the fastest among 226 countries.