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Japan’s Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future

August 30, 2007 - 1 Comment

I thought I should bring yesterday’s A1 story in the Washington Post to your attention, “Japan’s Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future.” Broadband speeds in the U.S. are something that we’ve been discussing at Cisco for a long time and something that our sister (brother?) High Tech Policy blog has spent time on as well.The lede sentence brings you right into the story, “Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it.” The next two graphs, however, are what is truly scary: “Broadband service here is eight to 30 times as fast as in the United States — and considerably cheaper. Japan has the world’s fastest Internet connections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, recent studies show. … Accelerating broadband speed in this country — as well as in South Korea and much of Europe — is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States.”I didn’t touch on it on my earlier post this week on Mark Cuban’s take on the Internet as “dead and boring,” but with higher speeds might come less deadness and boringness for him. To be sure, Cuban likely has as much bandwidth as he can handle (FTTH anyone?), but he’s only one guy. If you gave it to 300M fellow U.S. citizens then maybe some more of that good ol’ innovation that the Washington Post says is happening in Japan might be happening in the U.S. as well. (In fact, much of it is, but at 5 or 6Mbps instead of 100Mbps…and faster IS better…)And, lest we say the sky is falling too quickly, last time I looked, the world economy is buzzing along nicely and if the amount of ink Rik Kirkland gave to Japan in a recent piece in Fortune is any indication (“The Greatest Economic Boom Ever“), then they still have some economic work ahead of them. However, and as the Post piece points out, they now have a head start on the digital infrastructure.So, once again, let’s get a national broadband plan together, (frankly, in the U.S. and anywhere there isn’t one already) execute on it and innovate, innovate, innovate.*I should also plug the fact that Cisco’s own Robert Pepper is quoted in the Washington Post piece. The Post calls him “one of the world’s leading experts on broadband infrastructure.”*I should also point out that the photograph that the Washington Post reporter includes in the story of a “demonstration using ultra-high-speed broadband, a life-size, high-definition image of a distant colleague is projected onto a screen” is Cisco TelePresence. We use it at Cisco every day…and just used it at our virtual company meeting (see, the video).

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  1. There are several considerations when thinking about the impact of this story. First is the land mass mis-match of what is being covered. The focus is metro vs rural. The U.S. has much more ground to cover. Second is that most users in Japan are not accessing websites outside of Japan. They are reading, downloading and surfing Japan sites. Those that are accessing outside are experiencing high latency, especially with games outside of Japan. Third, the debt service for infrastructure (and everything else) as a percent of GDP (U.S. 35% vs. Japan > 100%). How do you catch up? Fourth, investing in this type of technology has much shorter time horizons, it becomes obsolete all at once. What about rural Japan? They didn't say much about that but those users get dial-up until they can get fiber.