Where’s My Fast Broadband?

For the life of me, I’ve never understood the argument that America’s low population density explains why our broadband is so slow. If it were the case that American broadband was slow on average this might be the explanation. But New York City is really dense! Much denser than Stockholm. And yet the broadband is faster in Stockholm. South Korea is about as dense as New Jersey, but the broadband’s way faster in South Korea. Perhaps it’s not feasible, at this point, to deploy ultra-fast broadband across the entire United States. But this doesn’t explain why the densely populated parts of the United States don’t have state-of-the-art broadbrand. The reason we don’t have state-of-the-art broadband is that we haven’t made the regulatory policies and public investments that would bring it about. In part, perhaps, because the consumer surplus of quality internet connections outpaces the available private profits.

Note that this is precisely analogous to certain tired arguments over mass transit. It’s true that given the U.S.’s low average population density compared to the Netherlands, that it’s not realistic for us to have as much mass transit as they have. But this doesn’t do anything to explain why a fairly dense city like Los Angeles should have third-rate mass transit. LA doesn’t have modern streetcar lines because instead of upgrading the old ones to modern technology over time, they tore them up! Everyone understands why there’s no subway in Montana — that’s not the issue.