Broadband Race

Broadband Race

January 30, 2007 0 Comments

A reader wrote this morning with a question about the role of communications technology in our global competitiveness:

I have a question for you concerning the future of broadband in the U.S. With Verizon and AT&T rolling out fios and u-verse broadband nationwide, do you not think that it’s just a matter of time before we move up the ladder with respect to our 16th rank world wide? Both company’s are bypassing Federal legislation flaws and proceeding with individual state legislation for relief. I understand this will slow the process but perhaps at the same time we will reach our goals.

I wish that were true. US companies are making substantial investments in new high-speed networks but they are doing it in the face of regulatory, tax, and legal burdens that would make me hesitant to approve the investments were I a director.

You are right that state legislatures have behaved more responsibly that the US Congress. Several have passed legislation speeding new entry into video services. We should send the state legislators to Washington so they can fix the problem.

There is an old joke about two boys who come upon a bear while walking in the forest. “Let’s get out of here.” said the first boy. “Wait a minute, while I put on my sneakers.” said the second. Boy #1 responded, “You’re not going to out-run that bear just because you have sneakers on.” Boy #2: “I don’t have to out-run the bear. I just have to out-run you.

Competition always works that way. You just have to beat the other guy. Unfortunately, in this case, the other guy is investing his brains out both by building massive fiber-optic networks and by building new universities to train young people how to design the next technologies.

Over the weekend, a small story in the Shanghai Daily caught my eye. Iwas reported this morning in the US by Reuters under the title Report: China’s 4G wireless launch leapfrogs 3G. A group of 10 Chinese companies is field-testing a new wireless system that will allow data transmission at up to 100 megabytes per second, several times faster than current technology–and put it into commercial use up until 2010.

As Chief Advisor to the Governor of Haidian–China’s Silicon Valley in Beijing–I get a close look at these companies. As an Honorary Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, I get to see the quality of basic research. Both are extremely impressive.

We’re ahead of the bear–for now. But the bear is hungry. We’d better put on those sneakers soon.


John Rutledge


  1. Mike McCandless

    January 30, 2007

    Great stuff, John. Glad to see you are back on-line, I thought maybe you got lost in China and weren’t coming home!

    Thanks. Not lost, but a little travel-worn.

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