Latest Internet access data is mixed message
The good news: The number of Tennessee households that can hook up to basic Internet service is rising. New research by Connected Tennessee indicates 96 percent now have access, up from 95 percent in April.
The not so good news is that leaves 100,000 households in the state that still can’t connect to basic broadband Internet.
Better news is that almost two thirds of the state’s households now have access to more robust broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps (megabits per second), according to Connected Tennessee.
Broadband technology is not a luxury. It’s a necessity that brings together data services, video and voice into a single network through fiber optic cable, coaxial cable and increasingly through wireless technology or satellite. It’s advance is critical. The state’s economy will be stifled without expanding high-speed access.
Consider the latest usage and population statistics from Internet World Stats, released in June. The analysis shows 78 percent of the U.S. population uses the Internet. That’s a good percentage compared to emerging economies such as Russia at 48 percent, Brazil at 46 percent, China at 40 percent and India at 11 percent. But the U.S. trails the U.K. (84 percent), Germany (83), South Korea (83) and France (80).
It’s imperative that Tennessee keep up with other states when it comes to Internet connectivity. If Tennessee cannot keep up with the rest of the U.S., it certainly won’t be able to keep up with the world.
Other statistics reveal a worrisome U.S. broadband landscape. The Huffington Post reported that, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the broadband gap between the U.S. and fast-moving advanced economies is almost scary. It’s not just about access. It’s also about speed and cost.
Take South Korea. OECD calculates that a South Korean Internet customer pays about $27 per month for service. The average cost for Americans is almost twice that.
Even more discouraging, by the time we know if the U.S. government has pushed us off the “fiscal cliff” on Dec. 31, South Koreans will be connected via Internet speeds more than 200 times faster than Americans can access.
Yeah, that’s the bad news.
Kudos for progress achieved through private and public partnerships by groups such as Connected Tennessee and Connected Nation. But there’s faster; then there’s fastest.
Tennessee and the entire U.S. needs to get really fast broadband, get it quickly, and make it available for an economical price.