Radio Berkman 143: Fast, Cheap, and Everywhere

February 18th, 2010

When the Federal Communications Commission announced in April of 2009 that they would be pursuing a National Broadband Plan – picture something as ambitious as the interstate highway initiative but for bytes instead of cars – web surfers with a need for speed began warming up their mouse muscles. It seems like we’ve sat on the side of the road while our friends in Europe and Asia have zoomed past us in the race to faster net speeds at cheaper prices.

But how does the US really stack up to the rest of the world?

As part of their Broadband Plan the FCC commissioned Yochai Benkler and a team of researchers at the Berkman Center to put together an international review of broadband deployment and policy. The result is an exhaustive 333-page report showing the US roughly in the middle of 30 industrial nations – in terms of speed, penetration, and cost.

How did we end up in the middle? And more importantly, how did so many other countries get ahead?

Yochai sat down with David Weinberger to talk about how they found these results, and what the US could do to ambitiously pursue a faster web.

or download
…also in Ogg!

Reference Section:
Use these tools to test your speed and see how it measures up
The Next Generation Connectivity
Uncut video from David Weinberger’s conversation with Yochai on Broadband Strategy Week
More on the FCC’s ambitious ‘100 Squared’ Initiative to reach 100 million houses with a minimum of 100 Megabits/second broadband
More on Google’s plan to reach 500,000 people with 1 Gigabit/second broadband

CC Music this week:
Jeremiah Jacobs – Pushing Past
BOCrew – SoulCornerBeat
Photo courtesy of flickr user paulnich

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Just how fast is my internet? That question might be on your lips if you’ve been following any of the technology news going on in the US in the past couple weeks. Last week Google announced that some lucky towns in the states would be getting a Google-sponsored Extreme Web Makeover, offering speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second to some 500,000 Americans. Not to be outdone, the Federal Communications Commission announced their “100 squared” plan this week – to bring 100 megabit per second broadband speeds to 100 million American homes.

And this past Tuesday the Berkman Center dropped its Final Report on broadband Internet around the world. Commissioned by the FCC the 333 page report is an exhaustive study in comparisons – showing just how the US stacks up among 30 industrial nations when it comes to internet speeds, penetration, and prices, for both mobile and wired internet, and the policies that got them there.

The results? Turns out – the US is roughly in the middle in nearly all measures.

Our internet speed averages about 4 megabits per second, meaning it would take somewhere around 40 minutes for you to download a typical episode of American Idol in HD. How does that compare? Well, that same episode in South Korea would take you only 10 minutes. In fact, with 100 megabit per second costing less than 50 bucks a month, many South Koreans could be staring at Simon Cowell’s mug in HD in under a minute. (You’d have to pay three times as much for half that speed here in the States).

Of course our thirst for high speed internet goes beyond watching singers embarrassing themselves on our laptops and smartphones.

When the FCC announced their National Broadband Plan last April they made it clear that high speed internet is going to fundamentally change how the US competes in the world. With applications from business, to education, to medicine, to energy, and public safety – high-speed internet is poised to revolutionize how we communicate.

For now it’s just a matter of implementing the right policy to get us there. We’ll see how the FCC’s plan fares when it hits the floor of Congress March 17th.

You can find a link to The Berkman Center report – Next Generation Connectivity: A review of broadband internet transitions and policy from around the world – on our shownotes at

The report’s Principal Investigator Yochai Benkler sat down with David Weinberger last week to give us a glimpse into how he and his team collected their data, and what lessons we should learn from other countries.


Yochai Benkler is the principal investigator behind the report Next Generation Connectivity: A review of broadband internet transitions and policy from around the world. You can find a download of that report on our website, along with a link to uncut video of David Weinberger’s interview with Yochai on our website,

This week’s episode was produced by me, Daniel Dennis Jones, with David Weinberger and Seth Young – from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Test your speed:
FCC’s 2009 announcement…
Google’s fiber announcement…
FCC’s 100 squared…
Berkman’s report:…

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Entry Filed under: audio,Berkman Center,radioberkman

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jeremiah  |  February 19th, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Thank you – so cool to see my work “in the wild!”

  • 2. Digest #24 : ::: Think Ma&hellip  |  February 20th, 2010 at 12:03 am

    […] If you don’t have the time or stamina for the entire thing, there is a Berkman radio bit about it and there is an NPR take on it.  There is also an interview with Yochai Benkler where he […]

  • 3. Pie and Coffee » Sa&hellip  |  March 17th, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    […] why cities are begging Google to bring them services that phone and cable companies won’t, this interview is a clear and detailed intro to the […]

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