Industrial revolutions can punish their pioneers — and that's what's happening to the United States in the world of digital communication.
A country can invent a technology, build an infrastructure around it — then see latecomers refine the technology and build a better infrastructure.
Such has been the fate of America's broadband communication networks, which are looking distinctly antiquated compared to competitors abroad.
Roughly two-thirds of Americans have "high-speed" Internet connections that operate at estimated average speeds of 3 or 4 megabits per second. In contrast, South Korea has succeeded in offering 100-megabit-per-second broadband to all its citizens. Many other countries have likewise leap-frogged the United States — Japan, Australia, Sweden ... the list is long and discouraging.
Hence the need for something like the 10-year "national broadband plan" the Federal Communications Commission offered to Congress this week. Chief among the plan's goals is to connect virtually all American households to affordable 100-megabit service by 2010.
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