SpeedMatters.org - Truth, Justice, and High Speed Internet For All

If you believe in the US as a country of innovation and on top of the latest trends, you'll want to visit SpeedMatters.org to clear up that misconception. Speed Matters is an organization dedicated to bringing high-speed Internet access to all areas of the country.

Currently, the US is number 16th on the list of countries for high-speed Internet subscribers. Our overall speeds in even the most advanced metro areas in the US lag far behind countries such as Japan, where speeds can be 5 times as high for the average consumer. Speed Matters has five guiding principles that explain the importance of this issue.
  • Speed and Universality Matter for Internet Access
  • The U.S. “High Speed” Definition is Too Slow
  • A National High Speed Internet for All Policy is Critical
  • The U.S. Must Preserve an Open Internet
  • Consumer and Worker Protections Must Be Safeguarded
This is not just a nice-to-have wish, but a crucial fight in our need to keep students, workers, and the US population in touch with the skills they will need to compete. Areas of the US that are already hurt by the shift from rural to urban population centers are even more disadvantaged due to lack of high-speed Internet access so critical to today's business world.

This hits me close to home and I'll explain why. My parents retired and moved to Maine in early 2002. The city they chose, according to the Maine government website, had high speed Internet. What they didn't know at the time, was that the Maine government tracks by zip code. Maine is a rural state and a single zip code can cover a lot of square mileage. Just because a portion of a zip code has access, doesn't mean everyone in the zip code does. And, guess what? They just so happened to be outside the coverage zone.

After 3 years of begging all the major communications companies in the area, letter writing, phone calls, and letters to the editor, they were no closer to a high-speed connection. People in their area only had dial-up or satellite with a $700 install fee, 2 year contract, and not much better than dial-up speeds. You know that great telecommuting economy? The one that allows people to work from home, well, it's not available in rural areas like this without high-speed Internet access.

People are being left behind. I'll give you another example, all Maine 7th graders get a computer to use in school, where there is a high speed connection. But when they go home to do their homework, they are forced to use dial-up. They don't have access to the latest tools to learn relevant job skills and the old ways of earning a living (mills, fishing, logging, etc) are no more.

So what happened to my parents? They got so fed up, they bought a small Internet company, changed the name to Mainely Wired, grew it to more than 5 locations, and now have close to 400 customers online. People who only vacationed in Maine have now moved to Maine full time, since they can get the Internet connection that allows them to do their jobs. In this case, simply the access to the connection has grown the local economy by keeping more people, their families, and their spending power in Maine.

Maybe your area has high-speed Internet. Maybe you are so used to it, you couldn't imagine it any other way. But stop and think what it would be like if you were using dial-up? Would you even use the Internet at all? Would you be as efficient? Would you be able to work from home once in awhile? And, the most important question of all - Would you even live in an area that didn't have high-speed Internet?


Dr. Bill Emener said…
Hi Kip,
Great Post! And Kudos to your parents for taking a pro-active response to the situation (and I bet they appreciate having a computer/Internet angel in the family!).
I am going to share this Post with my son, Scott -- he's in a high administrative position with a telecommunications company in Macon, Georgia. I would not be surprised if he doesn't have similar stories (and possibly another reason to promote his company).
Unknown said…
Thanks for the great comment Bill. I would be interested to know if your son is aware of SpeedMatters.org.

I think of this issue like the access to electricity in the early 1920's. It really is shameful that we as a country are not more on top of this issue.
Anonymous said…
Hey Kip. First time posting on your site but I've read your comments on my Dad's site. You always have good comments so I hope to add one here.

This is a big issue in the US and I don't think there is an easy fix as there are many factors that go into the problem and solution. It boils down to a few elements:
1. The almighty dollar. It is cost prohibitive for phone companies to build infrastructure that will service only a handful of customers. They still need to make a profit. This means one of two things happen - extremely high rates to the customers (which they will not pay) or government subsidies which in turn lead to higher taxes (which people do not want and officials do not want to legislate). If the companies know they will take a loss, they will not build.
2. Proximity - one main reason the high-speed internet % in other countries is higher is due to the close proximity in which their citizens live. The ISP's in Japan, for instance, can set up one wireless tower and provide wireless internet access to thousands of people in many of their cities. This wireless system has been deployed in select cities in the US but does not help the rural areas.
3. The US was the intial leader and now we are paying the price. We laid the ground work and bore the cost to invent and develop internet service as it exists today. The downside is that we now have to go back and fix many things we did over the past 15-20 years. The one thing about being on the cutting edge is many times you are the one that bleeds the most. Other countries let us spend money and make mistakes. Now they are able to implement cost-effective solutions the fist go around. It takes longer to fix something than it does to initially deploy.

I think the way this will unfold is wireless companies will wind up being the leaders in rural high-speed internet. Towers are cheaper than fiber and wireless phone service is already in high demand so the coverage footprints will only expand. Cable companies have the same density issues that the phone companies have. There are additional security isses with wireless but nothing that can't be overcome. With on-line gaming through Playstation and X-Box becoming such a huge industry, Sony and Microsoft will put more and more pressure to get this service provided to everyone. This will only help.
Your parents have found a nice little niche - good for them!
Unknown said…
Hello Scott,

Thanks for the in-depth and insightful comments. It really is a tough issue, but I think one that we cannot afford to ignore.

I enjoyed your analysis of the situation.

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