Editorial: Paying more, getting less — The need for broadband access in U.S.
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 29, 2013 | 1624 views |  0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the United States, access to high-speed Internet access continues to increase. In 2005, 55 percent of U.S. households could connect to broadband service. Today, that number has risen to 70 percent.

That is impressive. Add to it the number of schools that can connect to broadband service and it appears the United States is finally making the coast-to-coast push to get wired.

Participation in the modern economy requires access to the best Internet connections for video-conferencing, exchanging large documents and volumes of data, and all sorts of communications. This requires Internet speed and computer capacity. Both can be expensive.

Pricing broadband products for comparisons is difficult when Internet services are sold in a bundle with television and telephone, but recent studies have begun to reveal two things. First, that Americans are not getting the bang-for-the-buck consumers in other countries are getting, and, second, that our improved access in relation to ourselves is misleading. Though there may be more access today than a decade ago, the United States is still falling behind globally in broadband speed and value.

According to a recent study published by Harvard’s Berkman Center on Internet and Society, U.S. cities still pay higher prices for lower speeds. Internationally, our cities fall behind other cities in both price, which is higher here, and speed, which is lower. The few U.S. cities that do have high-speed options offer them at prices that are considerably higher than similar cities overseas. Interestingly, one of the American cities that stacks up well against the international competition is Chattanooga.

Lastly, the “bundled” plans in the United States involving the Internet, telephone and television are internationally ranked 30th in speed and affordability.

Put simply, Americans pay more for lower Internet speed.

What can be done? According to the study, in cities and countries where three or more competitive services are available to consumers, prices go down and Internet speed goes up. A report by the Federal Communications Commission points to new plans that will soon be offered, but getting other companies to compete, and new companies to get started, will be a challenge for the market, the states and especially the federal government.

In an economy where states lack the resources, and in a political climate where many are calling for less involvement by Washington, this might prove difficult.

However, the effort must be made.
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