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November 17, 2003

Socialized Internet in Utah?

Well not exactly, but this plan by Utah cities to build a fiber-optic network throughout the state highlights the dirty secret of the last decade-- the complete failure of the marketplace to upgrade the digital infrastructure of this country.

Sure, cable companies have kludged together broadband access and DSL service on phone lines has stretched speeds on old copper lines, but the forgotten promises of a decade ago were that the basic infrastracture of the country would be digital end-to-end by this point.

Instead, in the US, it's a patchwork with relatively expensive access to broadband services. Compare the patchy, expensive access in the US with South Korea where the government has driven high-speed Internet expansion that is both far more pervasive, faster and cheaper per month than in the United States.

Enter Utah--the plan in is for cities to spend $470 million to build fiber-optic systems far faster than cable or DSL broadband-- at a price less than $30 per month for residents, bringing the price down to the level where wide-spread adoption is more likely.

Typically, the Utah program is being criticized as potentially wasteful and something business is more competent to be doing. But as I wrote in an old column, The Telecom Meltdown: Why the Government Should have Build the Information Superhighway, the waste and financial crash-and-burn of the telecom dotcoms show that private industry can achieve levels of failure that propagandists against government could not even imagine.

So kudos to Utah-- an unlikely spot for testing broadband socialism, but an experiment worth hailing.

Posted by Nathan at November 17, 2003 02:39 AM