[Paleopsych] Foreign Affairs: Thomas Bleha: Down to the Wire

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Thomas Bleha: Down to the Wire

    From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005

    Summary: Once a leader in Internet innovation, the United States has
    fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband
    and the latest mobile-phone technology. This lag will cost it dearly.
    By outdoing the United States, Japan and its neighbors are positioning
    themselves to be the first states to reap the benefits of the
    broadband era: economic growth, increased productivity, and a better
    quality of life.

    Thomas Bleha, the recipient of an Abe Fellowship, is completing a book
    on the race for Internet leadership. Previously, he was a Foreign
    Service officer in Japan for eight years.


    In the first three years of the Bush administration, the United States
    dropped from 4th to 13th place in global rankings of broadband
    Internet usage. Today, most U.S. homes can access only "basic"
    broadband, among the slowest, most expensive, and least reliable in
    the developed world, and the United States has fallen even further
    behind in mobile-phone-based Internet access. The lag is arguably the
    result of the Bush administration's failure to make a priority of
    developing these networks. In fact, the United States is the only
    industrialized state without an explicit national policy for promoting

    It did not have to be this way. Until recently, the United States led
    the world in Internet development. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the
    Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency conceived of
    and then funded the Internet. In the 1980s, the National Science
    Foundation partially underwrote the university and college networks --
    and the high-speed lines supporting them -- that extended the Internet
    across the nation. After the World Wide Web and mouse-driven browsers
    were developed in the early 1990s, the Internet was ready to take off.
    President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore showed the way by
    promoting the Internet's commercialization, the National
    Infrastructure Initiative, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and
    remarkable e-commerce, e-government, and e-education programs. The
    private sector did the work, but the government offered a clear vision
    and strong leadership that created a competitive playing field for
    early broadband providers. Even though these policies had their share
    of detractors -- who claimed that excessive hype was used to sell
    wasteful projects and even blamed the Clinton administration for the
    dot-com bust -- they kept the United States in the forefront of
    Internet innovation and deployment through the 1990s.

    Things changed when the Bush administration took over in 2001 and set
    new priorities for the country: tax cuts, missile defense, and, months
    later, the war on terrorism. In the administration's first three
    years, President George W. Bush mentioned broadband just twice and
    only in passing. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) showed
    little interest in opening home telephone lines to outside competitors
    to drive down broadband prices and increase demand.

    When the United States dropped the Internet leadership baton, Japan
    picked it up. In 2001, Japan was well behind the United States in the
    broadband race. But thanks to top-level political leadership and
    ambitious goals, it soon began to move ahead. By May 2003, a higher
    percentage of homes in Japan than in the United States had broadband,
    and Japan had moved well beyond the basic connections still in use in
    the United States. Today, nearly all Japanese have access to
    "high-speed" broadband, with an average connection speed 16 times
    faster than in the United States -- for only about $22 a month. Even
    faster "ultra-high-speed" broadband, which runs through fiber-optic
    cable, is scheduled to be available throughout the country for $30 to
    $40 a month by the end of 2005. And that is to say nothing of Internet
    access through mobile phones, an area in which Japan is even further
    ahead of the United States.

    It is now clear that Japan and its neighbors will lead the charge in
    high-speed broadband over the next several years. South Korea already
    has the world's greatest percentage of broadband users, and last year
    the absolute number of broadband users in urban China surpassed that
    in the United States. These countries' progress will have serious
    economic implications. By dislodging the United States from the lead
    it commanded not so long ago, Japan and its neighbors have positioned
    themselves to be the first states to reap the benefits of the
    broadband era: economic growth, increased productivity, technological
    innovation, and an improved quality of life.


    In the late 1990s, after a decade in the economic doldrums, Japan
    lagged well behind the United States in Internet access and broadband
    usage. But in mid-2000, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori appointed the
    Information Technology Strategy Council, headed by Sony Chairman
    Nobuyuki Idei, which put together a bold plan to make Japan the
    "world's leading IT [Information Technology] nation" by 2005. Just as
    President Bush was taking office, a new Japanese "IT strategic
    headquarters," headed by the prime minister and including the entire
    cabinet, launched an "e-Japan strategy."

    A central goal of that strategy was to bring better-than-basic
    broadband to 40 million of Japan's 46 million households within five
    years. The government hoped to make high-speed broadband available to
    30 million households (through cable or digital subscriber lines
    [DSL], which use phone wires) and ultra-high-speed broadband
    connections to another 10 million (through fiber-optic cable). But
    even Japanese officials were skeptical about reaching such ambitious
    goals. And they understood that if they wanted even to come close,
    they would have to enlist the private sector and create the proper

    The government quickly removed many regulatory obstacles. But because
    cable providers were mostly mom-and-pop operations in rural areas,
    officials realized that they would also have to create a highly
    competitive private-sector environment. So the telecommunications
    ministry came up with one of the most competitive regimes in the
    world: it compelled regional telephone companies to grant outside
    competitors access to all their residential telephone lines in
    exchange for a modest fee (about $2 per line a month). The antitrust
    authorities also ensured that these companies did not create obstacles
    for their competitors, helping provide a level playing field.

    The results were extraordinary. Yahoo! BB, created by Masayoshi Son's
    venture-capital firm Softbank, and several other companies soon
    entered the DSL market. Yahoo! BB began offering high-speed service
    five times faster than current U.S. broadband for $22 a month. After
    aggressive marketing forced its competitors to meet Yahoo! BB's price,
    high-speed DSL subscriptions skyrocketed. By the end of 2002, such
    access was available to many more than the 30 million Japanese
    households the government had targeted. Within another five months, a
    greater percentage of homes in Japan than in the United States had
    access to broadband.

    Thanks to the government's competitive framework, the speed of the DSL
    service offered also rose dramatically, from 8 megabits per second in
    2001 to 12, 26, and 40 megabits today. (The typical U.S. broadband
    connection, whether DSL or cable, is still only 1.5 megabits per
    second or slower.) Meanwhile, the price of monthly subscriptions
    remained stable, even for 26-megabit access speeds, at about $22 per
    month -- by far the lowest price in the world. By September 2004, 15.3
    million Japanese subscribed to high-speed broadband. Moreover, for an
    additional $5 per month, users of Yahoo! BB can also have Internet
    telephone service. One in every 25 telephone calls in Japan is now
    made over the Internet, and the number keeps growing.

    Meeting the e-Japan strategy's second goal -- making ultra-high-speed
    access (up to 100 megabits per second) available to ten million
    Japanese households -- proved more difficult. Such connections permit
    real-time video telephoning and video conferencing, telecommuting, and
    rich multimedia options such as digital high-definition television,
    interactive games, and five-minute movie downloads (instead of the
    short, jerky video streaming that Americans are used to). But data
    cannot be transmitted at such speeds through existing phone lines, and
    new fiber-optic cable had to be laid throughout Japan. Having decided
    that those lines, too, should be open to competition, the Japanese
    authorities set out to devise significant incentives to persuade
    Japanese companies to invest in new ultra-high-speed cable, especially
    in rural areas.

    The government used tax breaks, debt guaranties, and partial
    subsidies. It allowed companies willing to lay fiber to depreciate
    about one-third of the cost on first-year taxes, and it guaranteed
    their debt liabilities. These measures were sufficient to ensure that
    new fiber was laid in cities and large towns, but in rural areas,
    municipal subsidies were also needed. Towns and villages willing to
    set up their own ultra-high-speed fiber networks received a government
    subsidy covering approximately one-third of their costs, so long as
    those networks, too, were open to outside access.

    These incentives created the right environment for the rapid
    deployment of fiber networks. Again, other companies decided to
    compete with regional telephone companies. The first, Usen, a
    nationwide distributor of background music with its own fiber network,
    was later joined by electric power companies. The resulting
    competition quickly drove the price of an ultrafast fiber connection
    down to $30 to $45 per month.

    By the end of 2002, ultrafast fiber connections were available to more
    than ten million households in Tokyo and Osaka; a primary goal of the
    e-Japan strategy had been met. But the program -- and the government's
    tax incentives - had also called for fiber lines to run directly to
    homes and offices, and those connections proved economic only in
    densely populated cities. In less settled areas, the government agreed
    to provide tax incentives for fiber taken only as far as
    neighborhoods, leaving it to individual users to decide how to
    connect. Some have chosen -- and paid for -- a direct fiber
    connection; others have opted for a cheaper but slower wireless
    connection. By mid-2004, ultra-high-speed broadband was available to
    more than 80 percent of Japan's citizens. With more than two million
    subscribers, it can be said to have gone mainstream.

    Fiber deployment is still moving quickly, and by the end of the year,
    ultra-high-speed access will be available to virtually all Japanese
    either directly or in their neighborhood. The program has been so
    successful that the Japanese government has already set its sights
    higher: in mid-2003, it decided to move beyond promoting access to
    ultra-high-speed broadband to encouraging its use.


    So far, no one in the Bush administration has offered a vision nearly
    as compelling as Japan's. Although Michael Powell, the former chairman
    of the FCC, spoke eloquently about the benefits of the coming "digital
    broadband migration," he suggested no date for arrival in the promised
    land. Moreover, he measured U.S. broadband progress by the
    exceptionally slow 200-kilobit-per-second standard -- about
    one-hundredth of the speed of typical broadband in Japan today.
    According to that minimal standard, the United States has made some
    progress: by mid-2004, more than 30 million American homes and offices
    had signed up for basic broadband. But the service is expensive, very
    slow, and rather unreliable. And despite these limitations, the Bush
    administration has made little effort to encourage cheaper and more
    robust high-speed broadband or to promote what many agree should be
    the model for the future: a vast network of ultrafast fiber connecting
    homes, offices, and neighborhoods.

    Without vision or leadership, U.S. broadband policy drifted during the
    Bush administration's first two years. The FCC tended to other
    matters. The Department of Commerce insisted that the market, not the
    government, should drive the rollout of broadband. Meanwhile, regional
    telephone companies relentlessly tried to reverse some of the
    promising measures that had been taken under President Clinton.
    Continuing efforts they had launched after the 1996 Telecommunications
    Act was passed, they lobbied legislators and sought court decisions to
    overturn regulations that had forced them to open their residential
    telephone lines to competitors.

    Powell seemed not to mind this challenge; he preferred a somewhat
    different approach anyway. He backed promising new technologies and
    appeared less interested in the idea of promoting DSL competition for
    residential telephone lines, even though the strategy had quickly
    boosted access speeds and lowered prices in Japan and elsewhere.
    Instead, he favored pitting the cable television industry against the
    regional telephone industry.

    Although in theory the strategy was viable -- telephone and cable
    lines run in front of more than 75 percent of U.S. homes, and with
    some technical upgrading, both can provide basic or high-speed
    broadband -- many opposed it. Among the critics of the multiplatform
    approach were Powell's predecessors at the FCC, who had done their
    utmost to open residential telephone lines; many economists, who were
    distrustful of duopoly competition; and consumer groups. Firms that
    were already competing or that wanted to compete with regional
    telephone companies in providing DSL service disagreed, too, as did
    those that coveted access to cable television lines. Some even claimed
    that this approach violated the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which,
    they argued, required the sharing of residential telephone wires.

    Still, when the FCC got around to reviewing broadband policy in
    February 2003, it made convoluted decisions that left only the
    multiplatform approach. Firms that were competing with regional
    telephone companies to offer high-speed DSL service over telephone
    lines would have only three more years of access. More significant for
    the long run, the regional telephone companies would not have to share
    with outside competitors the ultra-high-speed fiber lines they laid.
    The following year, moreover, at the urging of regional telephone
    companies, a court reaffirmed an earlier ruling that these companies
    need not share their residential lines with DSL competitors. Although
    many expected an appeal, higher levels of the administration chose not
    to challenge the decision. Thus, broadband competition over
    residential telephone lines was effectively killed. A proven strategy
    had been lost.

    Unfortunately, vigorous multiplatform competition is unlikely to
    emerge soon. True, there are signs of competition between the
    cable-modem broadband offered by cable television companies and the
    DSL service offered by telephone companies. Comcast plans to provide
    reliable Internet-based telephone service by doubling the speed of its
    broadband offerings from 1.5 megabits to 3 megabits per second over
    the next three years. Verizon and SBC Communications have dropped the
    cost of their broadband service to about $30 a month. And to compete
    directly with cable, some phone companies have begun to talk of
    developing their own Internet telephone service and providing higher
    broadband speeds to deliver video.

    But these new services will probably appear only slowly, and
    competition between the telephone and cable companies will remain
    limited. The reasons are simple: cheap, high-speed broadband would
    lead to widespread use of Internet telephones and thus threaten the
    phone companies' lucrative voice-telephone business, and more
    inexpensive broadband would multiply outside video and movie offerings
    and endanger the cable companies' profitability. So, although both the
    telephone and cable companies could provide cheap, high-speed
    broadband if they chose to, they are not rushing to develop it.

    The lack of strong incentives to encourage competition has, in other
    words, doomed broadband in the United States to remain much slower and
    more expensive than in Japan. Over the next five years, service is
    likely to get only marginally faster and cheaper. Meanwhile, at
    current transmission speeds, the next "killer" application -- Internet
    telephone service -- will remain shaky and unreliable.

    The development of ultra-high-speed fiber broadband service, which is
    just beginning to appear in the United States, will also lag. Barely
    more than 600,000 U.S. offices and homes had fiber connections at the
    end of 2003. Verizon plans to bring fiber to 3 million of the United
    States' 115 million households by the end of this year, with speeds
    ranging from 5 to 30 megabits per second. SBC Communications, which
    dominates the Midwest and Southwest markets, and BellSouth, the leader
    in the Southeast, are also laying fiber, although at a much slower
    rate. But they plan to stop the work after spending about $10 billion
    (the estimated cost of bringing fiber close to about 10 million U.S.
    homes and offices) and then examine whether further investment is
    justified. As a result, the pace of rollout will be slow. And the
    emergence of the substantial market needed to inspire innovative new
    products and services for those with fiber Internet access remains
    years away.


    The United States is even further behind Japan in wireless,
    mobile-phone-based Internet access, even though that platform is
    increasingly versatile and valuable. More and more, mobile phones can
    be used for tasks traditionally performed on computers. Except for the
    most office-oriented applications, such as word processing,
    spreadsheets, and presentation software, mobile phones will soon be
    used for nearly everything. In fact, many, including the Japanese, are
    already planning for a convergence of wireline and wireless
    technologies. By 2010, it is expected that such "ubiquitous networks"
    will permit Japanese to access the Internet at high speeds from a
    desktop, a laptop, a hand-held personal digital assistant, or a mobile

    Japan now has a commanding lead in mobile-phone Internet technologies
    and usage. With a nationwide cell-phone infrastructure in place by the
    mid-1990s, Japan began the shift away from voice services to Internet
    data services in early 1999. Then NTT DoCoMo introduced the "i-mode"
    service, providing e-mail and customer access to over 60 Web sites
    especially created for mobile-phone use. These sites offer news,
    financial services, weather, personal ads, games, and much more. (This
    service was recently introduced as "m-mode" in the United States.)
    Competitors soon emerged, and customer response was stunning. By
    December 2004, total mobile-phone subscriptions had reached 83.5
    million in Japan (representing more than 60 percent of the
    population), of which more than 72 million included Internet services.
    The lesson the NTT DoCoMo leadership took from this experience was
    that if you develop a new technology and market it, consumers will buy

    Following this philosophy, in October 2001, NTT DoCoMo launched a
    third-generation videophone service. By December 2004, thanks to
    thriving competition, Japanese videophone subscriptions had reached
    nearly 26 million and were growing by nearly 190 percent a year. As
    expected, this new market prompted notable mobile-phone innovation
    such as global-positioning-linked advertising, television reception,
    and music videos. Now Japan is testing fourth-generation, high-speed
    broadband phones that can support high-definition-television
    reception, movie downloads, more sophisticated games, and other
    multimedia applications.

    The Japanese government played a critical part in these developments.
    It made well-considered and timely decisions to allot cost-free
    spectrum for each new mobile-phone generation. In so doing, it gave up
    badly needed revenue, but it retained full control over the terms of
    licensing and the flexibility to reassign spectrum according to future
    technological developments. In 2007, the government is expected to
    announce new spectrum allocations for the fourth-generation broadband
    mobile phones planned for 2010. Meanwhile, to protect consumers, the
    government has set important conditions before granting a service
    license, insisting that a carrier's network cover a certain area of
    the country and guarantee a certain level of service (with minimal
    dropped calls or interference, for example).

    By contrast, U.S. mobile-phone policy was born of a colossal blunder
    from which the industry has yet to recover fully. In the early 1980s,
    after the management consultancy McKinsey estimated that there would
    be little demand for mobile phones and a small prospect of
    profitability, the FCC carved the United States into 734 tiny
    mobile-phone districts. It handed out two provider licenses in each
    district: one automatically went to the regional telephone company,
    and the other was drawn by lottery. The resulting infrastructure was
    cripplingly fragmented. It could not support nationwide calls, and
    inefficiencies and expensive connection rates translated into sky-high
    charges for customers.

    Twenty years later, the Clinton administration made a belated effort
    to encourage nationwide cellular networks. The government opened up
    enough spectrum for six nationwide networks and invited bids. Thanks
    to an imaginative on-line auction, it had sold off the spectrum for
    $7.7 billion by early 1995. Although the networks that entered the
    market still struggle to offer consistent quality, competition among
    them sharply reduced the price of mobile-phone service and spawned
    millions of new customers.

    Since the Bush administration took office, however, the FCC has only
    tinkered with spectrum policy around the edges. It has allowed
    companies to trade bits of spectrum to round out their infrastructure
    and opened modest amounts of spectrum to new wireless technologies
    such as WiFi and WiMax. Meanwhile, although the number of would-be
    national carriers dwindled from six to four and they expanded their
    infrastructure, U.S. mobile-phone service remains awful by European,
    let alone Japanese, standards. U.S. mobile phones can take digital
    pictures and connect to the Internet, but the cellular infrastructure
    is so spotty that even in large cities calls from an ordinary wireless
    phone may not go through. Sadly, U.S. mobile-phone competition is
    still based on price and the extent of a company's coverage rather
    than the kind of advanced data services available in Japan and

    In 2004, third-generation mobile service came on the market in
    selected U.S. cities. As in Japan, two somewhat different technologies
    are being used, both of which require upgrading the existing
    infrastructure. For the time being, third-generation mobile-phone
    service is available in only eight cities. (The much slower, older
    service can be had in several others.) Although the FCC has provided
    some additional badly needed spectrum, the third-generation cellular
    infrastructure remains painfully inadequate: most of the country has
    no service at all. Meanwhile, the FCC has announced that it will
    auction third-generation spectrum "as early as June 2006." Plans for
    fourth-generation mobile service in the United States are well beyond
    the horizon.


    The United States is losing considerable ground to Japan and its
    neighbors, and they will be the first to reap the economic benefits of
    these technologies. It is these countries, rather than the United
    States, that will benefit from the enhanced productivity, economic
    growth, and new jobs that high-speed broadband will bring. In 2001,
    Robert Crandall, an economist at the Brookings Institution, and
    Charles Jackson, a telecommunications consultant, estimated that
    "widespread" adoption of basic broadband in the United States could
    add $500 billion to the U.S. economy and produce 1.2 million new jobs.
    But Washington never promoted such a policy. Last year, another
    Brookings economist, Charles Ferguson, argued that perhaps as much as
    $1 trillion might be lost over the next decade due to present
    constraints on broadband development. These losses, moreover, are only
    the economic costs of the United States' indirection. They do not take
    into account the work that could have been done through telecommuting,
    the medical care or interactive long-distance education that might
    have been provided in remote areas, and unexploited entertainment

    The large broadband-user markets of Northeast Asia will attract the
    innovation the United States once enjoyed. Asians will have the first
    crack at developing the new commercial applications, products,
    services, and content of the high-speed-broadband era. Although many
    large U.S. firms, such as Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft, are closely
    following developments overseas and are unlikely to be left behind,
    the United States' medium-sized and smaller firms, which tend to
    foster the most innovation, may well be.

    The Japanese and the South Koreans will also be the first to enjoy the
    quality-of-life benefits that the high-speed-broadband era will bring.
    These will include not only Internet telephones and videophones, but
    also easy teleconferencing, practical telecommuting, remote diagnosis
    and medical services, interactive distance education, rich multimedia
    entertainment, digitally controlled home appliances, and much more.

    Given these costs and losses, it is clear that broadband is critically
    important to the U.S. economy and the United States' international
    competitiveness and that it must become a national priority. In the
    run-up to the election in November, President Bush finally addressed
    the issue, promising the electorate "universal, affordable access" to
    broadband technology by 2007 and "plenty" of carriers to choose from
    "as soon as possible thereafter." To reach these goals, he expressed
    confidence in new broadband service over power lines, promising
    wireless technologies, such as WiFi hotspots and longer-distance
    WiMax, and unspecified tax credits.

    But real progress will require more than these measures. To move
    forward, the administration should quickly take two steps. First, it
    should explain clearly the profound ways in which broadband will
    change work, learning, and leisure in the United States. Identifying
    such substantial benefits would energize providers and encourage
    potential users to get the most from the Internet. It would also give
    the private sector confidence in the nation's direction and a degree
    of business certainty.

    Second, the administration should push the President's Information
    Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), a group of private-sector IT
    leaders and academics, to play a key leadership role in advancing
    broadband deployment. Involving the private sector and prominent
    academics in broadband leadership is essential given the pace of
    technological advance and today's dynamic business environment.

    One of the PITAC's first tasks should be to set out bold long-term
    goals for the deployment of broadband in the United States, carefully
    distinguishing three different levels of service: basic broadband (at
    1.5 to 3 megabits per second), for slow downloads from and uploads to
    the Internet and Internet telephones; high-speed broadband (at 10 to
    30 megabits per second), for Internet reception of digital
    high-definition television and other video uses; and ultra-high-speed
    fiber broadband (at 100 megabits per second), for the highest-end

    The PITAC should consider how to redeem President Bush's pledge to
    provide, by 2007 (or 2010, at the latest), basic broadband access to
    all Americans at an affordable price ($20 to $25 per month should be
    the goal). To reach everyone, the effort would require developing a
    combination of technologies: wireline, wireless, and satellite. The
    United States' vastness no doubt complicates the task, but it is no
    excuse for not undertaking the job. (Canada, the world's
    second-largest state, also ranks second in global broadband
    connectivity.) If necessary, tax credits should be granted to
    companies that help reach rural and underserved areas.

    By 2010, the PITAC should also aim to make available high-speed
    broadband access to two-thirds of all U.S. households for $30 to $35
    per month. The key to reaching this goal is the government's taking
    the lead in creating a strongly competitive environment for DSL,
    cable, power line, and newer wireless broadband technologies. The more
    these technologies compete among themselves, the sooner Americans will
    have access to faster, cheaper broadband service. And with enough
    competition, there should be no need for government financial

    The PITAC should also do its best to promote ultra-high-speed fiber
    access for one-third of all U.S. households at $40 to $45 per month by
    2010. It should use its convening power to bring to the table all the
    stakeholders in the millions of miles of unused fiber that run below
    U.S. city streets. The purpose of such discussions would be to
    encourage the widespread use of existing fiber by analyzing the
    reasons for its current disuse and seeking ways to make it viable. The
    PITAC might also recommend legislation to permit the National Science
    Foundation to provide matching grants to bring fiber to the campuses
    of colleges and universities across the country. This program could be
    modeled on the highly successful National Science Foundation Network
    (NSFnet) project that brought the Internet to campuses in the 1980s.

    Finally, by 2010, the PITAC should suggest ways to create a
    comprehensive, nationwide, third-generation cellular infrastructure.
    With such mobile phones Americans would, at long last, be able to talk
    with one another regardless of where they are. A first step might be
    for the PITAC to bring stakeholders together to sift through the many
    economic, legal, regulatory, community, and environmental issues that
    currently stand in the way. Another would be for the government to
    begin considering now the requirements of fourth-generation wireless
    technologies. The new policy would also anticipate the likely
    convergence of wireline and wireless that will provide the anytime,
    anywhere, any-device connections to the Internet that have long been
    predicted. For starters, however, the government should take steps to
    ensure that by 2007 the hundred largest cities in the United States
    will no longer be riddled with dead spots and that third-generation
    mobile phones will be available in select rural areas as well.

    Reaching these goals will require top political leadership and
    consistent, purposeful government policies, as well as private-sector
    action. It will be the Bush administration's task to tell Americans
    how broadband could change their lives, provide the leadership needed
    to set out and reach specific goals, and fashion the competitive
    market framework that will foster fast progress. Another four years of
    drifting would likely leave less than one-half of the nation with
    somewhat cheaper but slow broadband service, a substantial portion
    preferring to stick with dial-up, and a significant share with no
    affordable access to broadband at all.

    Unfortunately, it could take half a dozen years (or more) to reach
    these goals, and meeting even that timetable would take commitment,
    resourcefulness -- and luck. In the meantime, the world leaders in
    broadband and mobile-phone service will continue to move ahead: Japan
    is already expected to have a comprehensive nationwide
    ultra-high-speed fiber infrastructure, as well as an entirely new
    third-generation mobile-phone infrastructure, in place by the end of
    the year. As usage grows, Japan and its neighbors will be the first to
    reap the substantial economic, innovative, and quality-of-life
    benefits of their enlightened leadership. It is now time for the
    United States to summon the will to catch up with them, so that
    Americans, too, can look forward to the rewards of the broadband

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