The focus of this piece attempts to examine why a supposedly technically advanced nation such as the United States has slipped to 12th place in the number of broadband subscribers per 100 people. That's according to rankings issued last December by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
And where there is no broadband, there is no VoIP. Or at least, it's that much harder for VoIP to make inroads.
From a read of Peter Galuszka's excellent piece, it seems that the two crippling factors for U.S. broadband are the marketing priorities of broadband service providers, as well as some nagging infrastructure issues.
He quotes and notes city of Philadelphia chief information oficer Dianah Neff as saying that local broadband service providers, including Verizon and Comcast (based in Philly) were cherry-picking broadband service build-outs in certain neighborhoods.
Neff cited these neighborhoods as those with higher income levels that presumably could be targeted by bundling of separate services (apparently including VoIP) at higher profit margins then if the services were sold a la carte.
A genuine hero in my book, Neff took that perception and with no small amount of personal and political persuasion, put together the $18 milion Wireless Philadephia Wi-Fi Project to blanket the city with Wi-Fi access.
"The Digital Divide is very real in Philadelphia," Neff tells Galuszka.
Despite the demographics-driven decisions of the broadband giants, Galuszka believes that the key issue in the lagging rate of broadband penetration in the U.S. is infrastruture-related.
"Still, the biggest problems are of America's own making-getting wired is a complicated mess because of the century-old system of providing telephone service," he writes. "Traditional telephone companies, such as Verizon, BellSouth and SBC, own about 90 percent of the basic infrastructure, including switches and wire links to customers. As stipulated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, phone companies have been forced to let broadband suppliers, such as firms offering digital subscriber lines (DSL), piggyback on their networks, but they often balk at doing so. In a new twist, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in August that telephone companies no longer had to share their lines at government-set rates. It is unclear whether this ruling will spur greater investment in broadband or lawsuits or both."