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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Episode 136: VC hype vs. Wall Street

Oct 22, 2019

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Marketplace Tech

Internet in the U.S: High cost, slow service

Queena Kim Oct 31, 2014
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There’s a new study out by the New America Foundation that ranks 24 cities around the world for their broadband offerings. That is, how much bang do we get from our buck?  

The study ranks Internet service providers in a few ways, says Nick Russo, a policy analyst at the Foundation. But the most interesting for consumers is the speed you can get for $40 in the cities.

Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo rank in the top three,” Russo says.

San Francisco is number six but LA, New York and Washington are at the bottom of the list. That means a lot of Americans are basically paying more money for slower service. Why is that?

Christopher Yoo, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School, says it’s simple.

“Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo are all the result of massive government subsidies,” he says.

Those countries have invested about $300 million for that fast, affordable service, Yoo says. But that’s not going to happen in the U.S., where Congress is looking to makes cuts in the budget for internet services

Al Hammond, a professor at Santa Clara University’s School of Law, says there’s another force at play.

“I think it’s the lack of competition,” he says.  

Hammond says, unlike other countries, the big Internet service providers in the U.S. aren’t required to rent out their broadband pipes to smaller ISPs. That means people in some cities are limited to one or two choices for internet service. And Hammond says some smaller cities are trying to provide cheaper, faster service to their citizens but the big ISPs are fighting that effort.

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