Look Ma, Faster Broadband!

by on January 29, 2009 · 15 comments

In the summer of 2000, while I was in college, I moved into a big house with 6 other guys. DSL was just coming on the market, and we were big nerds, so we decided to splurge on fast Internet access. Back then, “fast Internet access” meant a blazing fast (Update: 512k) DSL connection. We had to pay the phone company about $65/month for the line. And we paid our Internet Service Provider $55/month for the connectivity and 8 static IP addresses (thanks to local loop unbundling these were separate services). For $120/month we got to live in the future, enjoying connectivity 10 times faster than the 56k modems that almost everyone had at the time.

Adjusting for inflation, $120 of 2000 money is about $140 of 2009 money. So I was interested to see that St. Louis, MO, where I lived until recently, is about to get 60 mbps Internet service courtesy of Charter, the local cable monopoly. Had I stayed in St. Louis for another year, I would have been able to get 120 times the bandwidth for the same inflation-adjusted cost as the broadband access I had less than a decade ago.

It has almost become a cliche to lament the dismal state of America’s broadband market. There do seem to be countries that are doing better than we are, and we should certainly study what they’ve done and see if there are ideas we could adapt here in the states. But I also think a sense of perspective is important. I can’t get too upset about the possibility that in 2018 Americans might be limping along with 2 gbps broadband connections while the average Japanese family has a 20 gbps connection.

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