According to Paul Krugman, economist and Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, it's insufficient government regulation and essentially myopic worship of the capitalist free market. In today's column he brings up another technology/science related area in which the United States is lagging—high-speed Internet. I'll allow him to explain:
The numbers are startling. As recently as 2001, the percentage of the population with high-speed access in Japan and Germany was only half that in the United States. In France it was less than a quarter. By the end of 2006, however, all three countries had more broadband subscribers per 100 people than we did.
Even more striking is the fact that our “high speed” connections are painfully slow by other countries’ standards. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, French broadband connections are, on average, more than three times as fast as ours. Japanese connections are a dozen times faster. Oh, and access is much cheaper in both countries than it is here.
As a result, we’re lagging in new applications of the Internet that depend on high speed. France leads the world in the number of subscribers to Internet TV; the United States isn’t even in the top 10.
What happened to America’s Internet lead? Bad policy. Specifically, the United States made the same mistake in Internet policy that California made in energy policy: it forgot — or was persuaded by special interests to ignore — the reality that sometimes you can’t have effective market competition without effective regulation.
You see, the world may look flat once you’re in cyberspace — but to get there you need to go through a narrow passageway, down your phone line or down your TV cable. And if the companies controlling these passageways can behave like the robber barons of yore, levying whatever tolls they like on those who pass by, commerce suffers.
America’s Internet flourished in the dial-up era because federal regulators didn’t let that happen — they forced local phone companies to act as common carriers, allowing competing service providers to use their lines. Clinton administration officials, including Al Gore and Reed Hundt, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, tried to ensure that this open competition would continue — but the telecommunications giants sabotaged their efforts, while The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page ridiculed them as people with the minds of French bureaucrats.I am a paradox—both initially shocked by the United States' role as follower, but yet not at all surprised that our country, especially under the Bush administration's "leadership" (or should I say "followship?") has fucked this up. The irony of the WSJ calling telecomm regulation the work of "French bureaucrats" is probably my favorite aspect of this column (purely looking at it as a writer).
Whoever becomes the next POTUS, please remember that government should be there to protect against humanity's less benign genetic instincts—vengeance, unabashed greed, unchecked power.
[Not that anyone cares, but, this entry does not mean that blog brownout has ended. Ther more personal stuff is still under review.]