This article was in Bloomberg: U.S. Internet Users Pay More for Slower Service. I've read many pieces like this, but can't help myself. The problem is familiar. But each time, I hope to read that a solution is brewing somewhere. After having lived and traveled in Asia, it was disheartening to see the state of broadband here. Discovered that my Internet in Hawaii was half the speed and much more expensive than what I enjoyed in Taipei, Taiwan.
In 2004, the Lafayette utilities system decided to provide a fiber-to-the-home service. The new network, called LUS Fiber, would give everyone in Lafayette a very fast Internet connection, enabling them to lower their electricity costs by monitoring and adjusting their usage.
Push-back from the local telephone company, BellSouth Corp., and the local cable company, Cox Communications Inc., was immediate. They tried to get laws passed to stop the network, sued the city, even forced the town to hold a referendum on the project -- in which the people voted 62 percent in favor. Finally, in February 2007, after five civil lawsuits, the Louisiana Supreme Court voted, 7-0, to allow the network.
From 2007 to mid-2011, people living in Lafayette saved $5.7 million on telecommunications services.
Since Lafayette went down this path, other communities have followed. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a group that advocates for municipal fiber networks, these community-owned networks are generally faster, more reliable and cheaper than those of the private carriers, and provide better customer service.
. . . All Americans need high-speed access, just as they need clean water, clean air and electricity. But they have allowed a naive belief in the power and beneficence of the free market to cloud their vision. As things stand, the U.S. has the worst of both worlds: no competition and no regulation.
The "municipal fiber networks" idea was new to me, so I had to look up the organization mentioned in the story: Institute for Local Self-Reliance - Broadband Initiative. I'd be curious to know if there are similar programs or projects underway in Hawaii.
South Korea (see NY Times article) is a notable example of a country whose government has made high-speed Internet a national priority. Start-ups and entrepreneurs could launch ambitious web projects if they had ubiquitous, fast Internet. Building the infrastructure could provide a platform for innovation.