Tom Friedman writes:
Thomas Bleha, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer in Japan, has a fascinating piece in the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs that begins like this: “In the first three years of the Bush administration, the United States dropped from 4th to 13th place in global rankings of broadband Internet usage. Today, most U.S. homes can access only ‘basic’ broadband, among the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world, and the United States has fallen even further behind in mobile-phone-based Internet access. The lag is arguably the result of the Bush administration’s failure to make a priority of developing these networks. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized state without an explicit national policy for promoting broadband.”
Mr. Bleha notes [that] when America “dropped the Internet leadership baton, Japan picked it up. In 2001, Japan was well behind the United States in the broadband race. But thanks to top-level political leadership and ambitious goals, it soon began to move ahead.
“By May 2003, a higher percentage of homes in Japan than the United States had broadband. …
“Today, nearly all Japanese have access to ‘high-speed’ broadband, with an average connection time 16 times faster than in the United States – for only about $22 a month. … And that is to say nothing of Internet access through mobile phones, an area in which Japan is even further ahead of the United States. It is now clear that Japan and its neighbors will lead the charge in high-speed broadband over the next several years.”
South Korea, which has the world’s greatest percentage of broadband users, and urban China, which last year surpassed the U.S. in the number of broadband users, are keeping pace with Japan – not us. By investing heavily in these new technologies, Mr. Bleha notes, these nations will be the first to reap their benefits – from increased productivity to stronger platforms for technological innovation; new kinds of jobs, services and content; and rising standards of living.
Also read Thomas Bleha’s article in Foreign Affairs.