/// Gangnam Bandwidth, American Style

January 9, 2013  |  All Things Digital

Background image copyright kentoh Surrounded by next generation flexible displays and the next big tech toys at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show, former President Bill Clinton made this observation: South Korea is now number one in the world for computer download speeds, and the U.S. has fallen to number 15. “Our speeds are one-fourth of theirs, and we have fallen off the map,” Clinton said. For the uninitiated, the former president is referring to the fact that there are few to no American communities that are hubs of the kind of world-leading bandwidth sufficient to drive next-generation innovation in our economy. He’s referring to the fact that, though international studies differ, the United States does not enjoy bandwidth that is nearly as fast as our peer countries. He’s referring to the fact that, for the first time since American ingenuity birthed the commercial Internet, we do not have a single national wireline provider with plans to deploy a better, faster and bigger network. For most Americans, five years from now, the best network available to them will be the same network they have today. As a result, the best networks — along with the innovations and economic power they enable — will live in other countries as well. But we should not give up on American ingenuity; as Tom Friedman detailed in a recent New York Times op-ed , upgrading the broadband network in Chattanooga, Tenn., to world-leading gigabit speeds has transformed the community from a “slowly declining and deflating urban balloon” to the fastest growing city in Tennessee, attracting “a beehive of tech startups that all thrive on big data and super-high-speed Internet.” That’s what Gangnam bandwidth can do in America. That’s why a recent announcement about big bandwidth from Seattle is also big news. The city just announced a plan to bring gigabit service to a dozen of its neighborhoods. Over 100,000 Seattle residents, as well as health care and educational institutions, will have access to world-leading speeds. Not only is the scale of Seattle’s effort impressive, the path it took — smart policies involving rights of way management and dark fiber — can be replicated by other communities that wish to control their own bandwidth destiny. As America’s National Broadband Plan concluded in 2010, our country needs a critical mass of communities with world-leading networks for us to continue to have the kind of environment that fosters the cutting edge innovations necessary to develop the next generation of world-leading broadband applications

Gangnam Bandwidth, American Style

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