Saturday, July 12, 2008

Policy Outcomes

It may not always be immediately obvious what the consequences of screwing up telecom policy will be, but here's an illustration. To be honest, I'm not sure that broadband penetration is a terribly meaningful statistic at this point. There are some outliers in difficult to reach locations who still have no access to broadband, but as a general matter, broadband in some form or another is available to those who want it, at least in those in the countries towards the top of these charts. The more meaningful statistic is the average throughput. Japan, Korea, and France have all passed the threshold where IPTV is practical. In fact, just based on those bandwidth numbers I ran a search for IPTV in France and came up with this. Broadband in the United States, by contrast, is five times slower than Korea or France, and ten times slower than Japan. The real kicker is that we pay more for that privilege than consumers in those other countries. We must be paying extra for our wonderful customer service... The other key point is that around the time of the boom, the United States was the clear global leader in Internet and broadband service. Japan and Korea, in particular, were late to the game and got to where they are now almost entirely as a result of aggressive regulatory policy. Our steady decline is similarly tied to our moronic telecom policies. Rambling on about the power of the free market (as an alternative to regulation) doesn't get you too far when you're dealing with non-competitive markets, and at some point that starts to show.

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