FCC admits: US Broadband embarrassingly slow

The Takeaway

Photo of network cables (Image by Flickr user Pascal Charest (cc:by-nc-nd))

This story was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

Internet connections in the United States are a national embarrassment. "The rest of the world has sort of been laughing at us -- in terms of our internet connections -- for a very long time," Rick Karr, a correspondent for PBS's Need to Know told PRI's The Takeaway. "We are incredibly slow."

A new report out from the FCC admits that embarassing fact, Karr says. The United States is lagging far behind much of Northern Europe, industrialized Asia, and even parts of the Middle East, when it comes to internet speeds. Everyone in Finland, for example, will likely soon enjoy connections 25 times faster than what the FCC says is good.

One problem is a lack of competition. Telecom companies have virtual monopolies in the Untied States. In other countries, Karr says that people may have 10 or 12 companies competing for their internet dollars. The lack of competition hasn't motivated many telecoms to improve their services.

The FCC also hasn't been pushing for fiberoptic cables in the United States to the same extent that regulators in other countries have, according to Karr. In the US, only about 3 percent of homes and businesses have fiberoptic internet connections. In countries like the Netherlands, almost 60 percent do.

The slow speeds could seriously hamper the global competitiveness of the United States in the near future. Americans may not be able to take advantage of the next generation tools to the same extent that other countries can. And until they've experienced the lightning-fast connections in countries like the Netherlands, most Americans don't realize there's a problem. According to Karr, "we just don't know any better."

"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.