Category Archives: Internet Speed

Woz to FCC: Save the Internet

Wozniak to the FCC on net neutrality:
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.
He also details examples of how difficult it was to start a new service the way the telephone system used to be, how radio used to all be freely receivable, and how cable TV is mis-regulated. He summarizes his case:
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
Then he asks for all that not to happen to the Internet:
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Ain’t that the truth.


Duopoly Cons Congress Members

73 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter drafted by telco and cableco lobbyists against net neutrality. Save the Internet has sufficiently fisked it. My favorite point is that when AT&T was required as a condition of acquiring Bellsouth in 2006 to abide by net neutrality, it increased its infrastructure investments. As soon as that two year requirement was up, so were the investments. (And they didn’t even honor all the requirements, such as a low-end $10/month service.)

The simple fact is that net neutrality was the condition under which the Internet grew to be what it is today, which is the last bastion of free speech and a free press in much of the world, especially in the United States. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is that the duopoly (telcos and cablecos) succeeded in their regulatory capture of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s term as chairman and did away with much it. The U.S. used to have among the fastest Internet speeds in the world. Since the duopoly got their way, the U.S. has fallen far behind dozens of other countries in connection speeds, availability, and update. While the U.S. NTIA claimed at least one user per ZIP code counted as real service.

We can let the telcos and cablecos continue to turn the Internet into cable TV, as they have said they want to do. Under the conditions they want, we never would have had the world wide web, google, YouTube, flickr, facebook, etc.

And left to their plan, the duopoly will continue cherry-picking densely-populated areas and leaving rural areas, such as south Georgia, where I live, to sink or swim. Most of the white area in the Georgia map never had anybody even try a speed test. Most of the rest of south Georgia had really slow access. Which maybe wouldn’t be a problem if we had competitive newspapers (we don’t) or competing TV stations (we don’t). Or if we didn’t need to publish public information like health care details online, as Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) says he plans to do. How many people in his district can even get to it? How many won’t because their link is too slow? How many could but won’t because it costs too much?

John Barrow (D GA-12) has a fancy flashy home page that most people in his district probably can’t get to. Yet he signed the letter against net neutrality.

I prefer an open Internet. How about you?

Why did the 73 Democrats sign the letter? Could it have to do with the duopoly making massive campaign contributions to the same Democrats and holding fancy parties for them?

The same lobbyists are after Republican members of Congress next.

Call your member of Congress and insist on giving the FCC power to enforce net neutrality rules.


R.E.A. for Fast Internet Everywhere

In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt discovered stayed at Warm Springs in south Georgia to treat his polio. He discovered that most of rural America did not have electricity, and thus little light at night, few refrigerators, no eletric irons, and where you could get electricity, it cost much more than he was used to.
fdrbarnesville.gif It was Roosevelt himself who linked the country’s rural electrification program to his adopted hometown of Warm Springs, Ga. In an August 11, 1938, speech at Gordon Military College in Barnesville, Roosevelt spoke at the dedication of Lamar Electric Membership Corporation (now Southern Rivers Energy). His comments there immortalized the impact the president’s connection with rural Georgia had in illuminating the nation’s farms and country back roads. “Fourteen years ago, a Democratic Yankee came to a neighboring county in your state in search of a pool of warm water wherein he might swim his way back to health,” Roosevelt said before a crowd of 20,000 that summer day. “The place, Warm Springs, was a rather dilapidated, small summer resort. His new neighbors extended to him the hand of genuine hospitality, welcomed him to their firesides and made him feel so much at home that he built himself a house, bought himself a farm, and has been coming back ever since.”

Truly, Roosevelt endeared himself to Georgians. He continued his speech with the following words, which have been quoted countless times in promoting Warm Springs, the Little White House and Georgia’s EMCs: “There was only one discordant note in that first stay of mine at Warm Springs: when the first-of-the-month bill came in for electric light for my little cottage, I found that the charge was 18 cents a kilowatt-hour about four times as much as I paid in Hyde Park, New York. That started my long study of proper public utility charges for electric current and the whole subject of getting electricity into farm homes. So, it can be said that a little cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, was the birthplace of the Rural Electrification Administration.”

The R.E.A. produced more than electricity. “Truly, Roosevelt endeared himself to Georgians”, and to the rest of rural America, making the rest of FDR’s New Deal much easier to sell. Read the rest of FDR’s speech: that’s exactly what he’s doing; using the R.E.A. t o sell the New Deal.

We have a similar situation today with high speed Internet and rural America. Republicans controled Congress and the White House for 8 years and the U.S. fell behind. Democrats want to pass the equivalent of another New Deal. High speed Internet access everywhere would have the effect the R.E.A. had in the 1930s.

Plus more: the Internet is the printing press, the telephone, the telegraph, the radio, and the TV of the 21st century. Without it, people can’t even download the PDF of the CWA report that shows how far behind they are, much less YouTube, facebook, blogs, and access to diverse news sources throughout the world, not to mention the text of every bill in Congress and the voting records of every Congress member, as well as who their campaign contributors are. Those of us with Internet access take those things for granted.

Those without still mostly depend on one local newspaper and TV news for their information. Well, that plus chain emails for those who have dialup. With newspapers failing and TV news controled by a handful of companies, without the Internet there is no free press. Without a free press there is no democracy.

As FDR said in 1938:

Yes, electricity is a modern necessity of life (and) not a luxury. That necessity ought to be found in every village, in every home and on every farm in every part of the wide United States.
The same is true of high speed Internet access in 2009.

We need high speed Internet access everywhere for economic progress, national competitiveness, and for democracy. And yes, since the Internet is a huge source of recipes, for mom and apple pie! In south Georgia, even for okra fritters! All the Internet you can eat: how’s that for a slogan?

U.S.A.: Dead Last in Internet Speeds, and Not Trying Very Hard to Catch Up

Leslie Cauley writes in USA Today:
The average Internet download speed in the USA is 5.1 megabits per second
A programmer on a project I’m working on just moved back to Finland. He’s got 30 megabits per second, and he could get 100 Mbps if he wanted to pay a little more. Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., we’re lucky to get 3Mbps through DSL or 8Mbps through cable. Anywhere in Japan you can buy 100Mbps for about the same price per month as we pay in the U.S. for 3Mbps. I don’t think you can even buy anything as slow as 8Mbps in Japan anymore.


USA Today got its data from a report by Communication Workers of America, which says:

New research indicates that between 2007 and 2009, the average download Internet speed in the United States has increased by only 1.6 megabits per second (mbps), from 3.5 mbps in 2007 to 5.1 mbps in 2009. At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet connections.
U.S.A.! We’re dead last and not trying very hard to catch up!

It’s not just the U.S. as a whole that’s a backwater, some parts are worse. Let look at Georgia. Don’t stop with the interactive display, which appears to show the fastest tested, click on through to the PDF report that shows a more realistic picture of speeds people actually get; it has the map shown above.

Atlanta is as usual well served, at least by U.S. standards, which is 1/10 the speeds you can get in a couple dozen other countries.

But look at the other half of Georgia. See all the grey in the southeast of the state, between Valdosta and Savannah, and between Macon and Valdosta (GA-01)? Less than 768 kilobits per second. That’s dialup. Which means nobody there will be picking up this PDF, or posting pictures on facebook, or watching clips of the Daily Show on YouTube, or following what their representative is up to.

And that’s just the people who actually use the Internet. Most people don’t. See all the white areas? There are few speed tests there because there are so few people there using the Internet to test.

Last week Rep. Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) said all information about the new health care reform would be online. That’s a good 21st century step. But much of his own district (southwest Georgia) won’t be able to get it that way; they’re still mired in the 20th century.

In the 1930s there was a similar situation with electric power, as FDR discovered when he stayed at Warm Springs in south Georgia to treat his polio. Result: the Rural Electrification Authority (R.E.A.), which brought electricity to rural America and made the rest of FDR’s New Deal welcome to rural Americans. More on that in the next post.


Japan Still Far Ahead of US in Internet Connection Speeds

While the U.S. still hopes to get up to 10Mbps Internet connection speeds by 2012, Japan already has such speeds for cable Internet service almost everywhere. And yes, I mean Internet connections, not just broadband.


But in Japan cable Internet service is of declining popularity, because 30 or 40 Mbps for $50 or $60 per month is not really fast there.

DSL in Japan goes up to 50 Mbps for also around $50-$60/month.


But for actual fast, cheap, Internet connections, people in Japan buy Fiber to the Home (FTTH), which actually costs less and delivers from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.


Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., EDUCAUSE has proposed 100Mbps national broadband using a funding method that already failed in Texas.

Japan didn’t get to 100Mbps by a single government-funded network. It did it by actually enforcing competition among broadband providers. Why did it do this? Because a private entrepreneur, Masayoshi Son, and his company Softbank, pestered the Japanese government until it did so.

Thus it’s refreshing that these graphs laying out how far ahead of the U.S. Japan is come from the New America Foundation. Chair? Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

Online Everyone: The Internet for Everyone, a new public/private coalition

internetforeveryone.jpg Google’s Vint Cerf, ZIPcar’s Robin Chase, FCC’s Adelstein: Internet for Everyone, a public/private coalition for getting everyone online:
It’s Google’s involvement in the deal that makes the new coalition something to keep an eye on. The company has expanded its Washington DC lobbying group significantly in the past few years.

“When you have a public interest community up against a massive industrial sector like the cable and telco companies, you’re going to likely fail because of the corrupted political system where money buys influence,” said Silver. “However, if you can align the public interest with major industrial sectors that also have an increasing influence in Washington, then you have something formidable, then you actually can beat the cable and phone cartel, and this is going to how its going to play out.”

Net Neutrality Advocates Call For Fast, Universal Access To The Net, By Sarah Lai Stirland, Wired, June 24, 2008,

Access, choice, openness, innovation: yes, those are the points (plus speed), without being weighed down by the albatross of the clunky “net neutrality” malnym.


PS: Free Press: if you’re going to put a video up front, pick a fluent public speaker such as Robin Chase or Jonathan Zittrain to show first, eh? “Collective hallucination,” yes!

Critics, it’s Time to Stop the Quibbling: Broadband in Other Countries

bio_nate.jpg Ars technica sums it up:
One of the ironies of the current broadband situation in the US is that staunch free marketeers defend the status quo even though the result of their views has been duopoly and high prices. Meanwhile, other countries (including those with a reputation in some quarters for “socialism”) have taken aggressive steps to create a robust, competitive, consumer-friendly marketplace with the help of regulation and national investment.

Critics, it’s time to stop the quibbling: the data collection practices that show the US dropping year-over-year in all sorts of broadband metrics from uptake to price per megabit might not prove solid enough to trust with your life, but we’re out of good reasons to doubt their general meaning.

Broadband: other countries do it better, but how? By Nate Anderson, ars technica, Published: May 11, 2008 – 07:37PM CT

That post includes a table of papers and reports on per-country broadband rankings with corresponding U.S. rankings, from 11 to 24.

Then it gets to lack of political leadership:

Despite the repeated claims of the current administration that our "broadb and policy" is working, the US act ually has no broadband policy and no aggressive and inspiring goals (t hink "moon shot"). The EDUCAUSE model suggests investing $100 billion (a third comes from the feds, a third from the states, and a third from compan ies) to roll out fiber to every home in the country. Whether the particular pro posal has merit or not, it at least has the great virtue of being an ambitious policy that recognizes the broad economic and social benefits from fast broadba nd. 

Here's hoping that the next president, whoever he (or, possibly, she) is, g ives us something more effective—and inspiring—than this. It's telling that the current administration's official page on the President's tech p olicy hasn't had a new speech or press release added since… 2004.

$100 billion may sound like a lot, but the federal government alone spends that much a year on the unnecessary Iraq war. The U.S. needs better priorities.


Game on: ECA for net neutrality

eca.jpg Good news:
Gamers are, by nature, a more web-savvy lot than the average Internet consumer. As a result, complicated-sounding concepts like “Net Neutrality” tend to be a pretty easy sell to those individuals whose primary means of entertainment is heavily dependent on fast and unfettered Internet access.

Yesterday the Entertainment Consumers’ Association unveiled another new venture into the realm of gamer activism. Following on the success of political action programs such as the Video Game Voters Network, the ECA is hoping to apply a similar formula to the complicated issue of Net Neutrality. The new initiative is called Gamers for Net Neutrality, and its purpose is to provide gamers with the tools necessary to fight the encroaching threat of a micro-monetized and heavily controlled online space.

ECA Launches Gamers for Net Neutrality, New initiative empowers gamers to help keep online traffic regulation-free. By Mark Whiting,, 04/02/2008

This is what it will take to win. We need the FCC to enforce net neutrality. And that will only happen when there’s an administration that will make it do so. And that will only happen if the people vote it in. We need more ISP competitors. And that will only happen as customers demand it. This is the path to net neutrality and Internet freedom.



“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced.
The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people…
This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments,
and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”

John Adams, 1818

Back to the Future: 10Mbps by 2012, or, What Japan Had Years Ago

marketshare.gif Creeping ahead:
A study from Texas-based research firm Parks Associates predicts that 33 million US households will have broadband connections of 10Mbps or faster by 2012. As of the end of 2007, that figure stood at 5.7 million, which means that a lot of change will have to occur in the US market for that 33 million figure to become a reality.

Report: 10Mbps broadband in 33 million homes by 2012, By Eric Bangeman, ars technica, Published: March 04, 2008 – 10:20PM CT

Meanwhile, Japan is already doing 100Mbps. But in Japan there is real ISP competition. Unlike in the U.S., where, as shown in the pie chart by Park Associates (via DSL Reports), each of Comcast and AT&T have a fifth of the broadband market, followed by Verizon and Time Warner each with 13%, plus Cox with 7%, and that’s 3/4 of the total market served by only five companies, of whom most people have a choice of only two in any given locality. That’s not competition.


Pathetic NTIA Broadband Report: Inflated ZIP Codes and BPL

bpl.gif U.S. Commerce Secretary hails “dramatic growth of broadband” in the U.S., citing a report from National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That report not only uses the U.S. tinyband definition of 256Kbps as “broadband”, it still uses ancient metrics such as this:
By December 2006, 91.5 percent of ZIP codes had three or more competing service providers and more than 50 percent of the nation’s ZIP codes had six or more competitors.

Gutierrez Hails Dramatic U.S. Broadband Growth, Government Technology, Feb 1, 2008, News Report

So any provider that has service available to at least one user in a ZIP code is counted as a “competitor”.

Meanwhile, the ARRL says the NTIA report inflates broadband over powerline (BPL) figures: Continue reading