Ask Your Internet Provider

Remember “I want my MTV”?

Of course you do. It was everywhere in the 1980s and was even in the Dire Straits 1985 song “Money for Nothing.” MTV was a new cable channel that wasn’t having a whole lot of luck persuading cable operators to carry its programming so it went right to the people – okay, the young people – with its message: call your cable operator and tell them “I want my MTV.”

And it worked. Are there any cable systems that didn’t carry MTV by 1990?

MTV created the template for that kind of campaign and other fledging cable channels emulated it: they told prospective customers to contact their cable operators and tell them they want the such-and-such channel. That really worked, too, for a number of years, until more recent times, when it’s become harder and harder for new and independent cable channels to get up and running because broadcasting is now so corporate that small guys are mostly excluded and weak channels count on their corporate owners, which also have strong channels, to “persuade” cable operators to include them.

Cable operators back then only provided television programming, but now, they – and telephone companies – are all internet service providers as well, and The Curmudgeon believes there’s a question we should all be asking our internet service providers:

Why is my internet service so damn slow?

aol_imageIt’s true. We’ve come a long way, baby, from our AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy dial-up days and our jokes about the “world wide wait and we probably think our internet service these days is pretty damn fast.

And if we think that, we’re wrong.

Of course, “fast” is a relative term, and our service today is much, much faster than it once was.

But not nearly as fast as others have it or as fast as it could be.

What others?

Well, here are a few numbers for you.

Internet speed is measured in megabits per second, or mbps. In the U.S., the average internet connection speed is 11.5 mbps.

Which places us 12th in the world.

So who’s higher than us? England? China? Canada? Germany? France?

No – to all of them.

Here’s a list of the 11 countries that have faster average internet connection speed than the U.S.

  • South Korea – 25.3
  • Hong Kong – 16.3
  • Japan – 15.0
  • Switzerland – 14.5
  • Sweden – 14.1
  • Netherlands – 14.0
  • Ireland – 13.9
  • Latvia – 13.0
  • Czech Republic – 12.3
  • Singapore – 12.24.15
  • Finland – 11.7

Okay, The Curmudgeon gets countries like Hong Kong, Japan, and Sweden; these are pretty advanced industrial and technological countries.

But Latvia? The Czech Republic?

South Korea? SOUTH KOREA? That tiny, backward country that cowers in its boots and needs protection from one of the most backwards countries in the world HAS AN AVERAGE INTERNET CONNECTION SPEED MORE THAN TWICE AS FAST AS OURS?

How can that be?

And why are we settling for that?

Well, the “How can it be” part has two answers: first, we, as customers, are not asking for better service from our providers; and second, in few parts of the country is there real competition for our business, so internet service providers have little incentive to offer us better, faster service. Don’t like their speed? Well, they’ll be happy to point you in the direction of a dial-up service because that’s the only alternative in most places. Instead of focusing on the quality of the service they offer, they focus on piling on more services for which we might be willing to pay extra so they can make more money.

Why not faster internet service, too?

Well, there’s a third answer, too: because our elected officials are constantly erecting barriers to new companies trying to compete in our individual markets and have gotten very, very good, with the help of generous campaign contributions from the existing companies, at rebuffing the very few bold enterprises that seek to overcome those barriers. It’s a lethal combination: rich companies making money as fast as they can count it and groveling politicians who will do anything to help them protect their monopolies in exchange for campaign contributions. And your interests? Not really a consideration: neither the internet service providers nor the public officials consider your interests a priority.

And that’s why, if you want faster internet service – and the technological capacity for much faster service already exists, it’s not as if someone has to figure out how to do it – you have to move to Latvia.

Or the Czech Republic.

Or South Korea.


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