America's Lagging Internet

Friday, November 02, 2012


The United States once led the world in internet speed and infrastructure. Now, according to one estimate, it ranks at about 29. Brooke talks to David Cay Johnston, journalist and author of The Fine Print: How big companies use plain english to rob you blind, who says that companies continue to raise prices and engage in lobbying efforts to rewrite regulation, while avoiding necessary upgrades to infrastructure that would speed up America's internet.

Menahan Street Band - The Crossing


David Cay Johnston

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [12]

William Caxton

In the transcript, "Moldavia" appears twice, each time followed by an asterisk. Is this a failed attempt to create a footnote?

Nov. 10 2012 12:13 PM

I have "super fast" cable modem service that is supposed to deliver "up to 8 meg" speeds, but cannot stream a single channel of 480p SD (Standard Definition) without stuttering and stalling constantly.

Nov. 06 2012 08:58 AM
Ron Corriveau from Newport RI

I live in a community that has BTOP funded fiber running 150 feet from my house and yet the only options I have is a 5/5 mb service from COX (advertised as 25/10) or 1 MB DSL service from Verizon that is advertised as twice that. I am working with city government to develop our own municipal internet here and am expecting to find out soon what the incumbents will do to improve their service or stop us.

Nov. 05 2012 11:10 AM
Kathleen from Wisconsin

Cooperatives are an important source of high speed internet in sparsely populated areas. Obviously there is no financial incentive for corporations to expand service into rural areas. Electric and phone cooperatives were formed to do this, and now many phone co-ops are moving into high speed internet.

Nov. 04 2012 10:39 PM
Kristin McIntire from Tamworth NH

Tamworth Wireless has been providing high speed internet to the residents of Tamworth New Hampshire for more than a year. It has been, for me, a very welcome alternative to dish internet (my only other option) as the dish would frequently, especially during rain storms, not work. TamWireless has proven that small rural towns can bring high speed internet to the last mile and do so affordably.

Nov. 04 2012 11:03 AM
Christopher Mitchell from Saint Paul, Minnesota

Very excited to see the discussion about how local communities can build their own networks to make sure they are not bypassed by the Internet. DSL and cable simply don't cut it and the private sector is not likely to provide much better anytime soon.

For those who are interested in alternatives, I work for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and we run - collecting and discussing examples of communities that have built their own networks. We have a number of case studies (including of several communities cited by the show) and put up new stories frequently about communities building their own networks.

Nov. 03 2012 05:33 PM
Carl Bouton from Breedsville, Michigan

I can certainly relate to David Cay Johnston’s critique of our nation’s internet infrastructure. I live in what most people would consider the more developed third of the state of Michigan (southern half of the lower peninsula), on a well-travelled county road, 25 miles west of Kalamazoo and 60 miles south of Grand Rapids. Yet NO BROADBAND! I have to drive 3 ½ miles to an internet café to access something other than dial-up.

However, while I agree with the vast majority of what Mr. Johnston had to say, I was disheartened by his apparent adherence to the tired old conventional wisdom that economic GROWTH is the be all to end all. I would hope by now that otherwise enlightened individuals such as Mr. Johnston would have learned the lesson of the famous Earthrise photograph snappped on Christmas Eve, 1968, by Bill Anders during the Apollo 8 mission. This was apparently the inspiration for Buckminster Fuller’s use of the term spaceship earth, and his emphasis that we live on a finite planet with limited resources. Thus, every time our human civilization GROWs, nature shrinks (along with the inherent ecosystem services it provides civilization). In sum, government must find ways to “promote the general welfare” without promoting infinite economic growth.

Nov. 03 2012 01:53 PM

Interesting to contrast this show with the one done by you in 2009 with some representative of the big-companies "cartel" of communications providers. (Btw, in Googling for this site & show info, using what I recalled from the show >>"on the media" glasgow kentucky verizon<< I only got a lot of hits for Verizon; ultimately, I found a URLink to your 2009 show, but had to come to your site (eventually coming up when I subbed 'Brooke Gladstone' vice 'verizon') to finally get this information. Is the Net biased by $$$ ?!)

Nov. 03 2012 09:57 AM
David Cay Johnston from Rochester NY


You are quite right and while I thought I said "Moldova," and have said that in other interviews and written it correctly, the tape shows my mind generated a Cold War era memory and Brooke, understandably, picked up on my verbal error.

The important fact is that America's Internet is slower than Moldova's as well as 28 other countries -- and as other nations invest in high speed, high capacity bandwidth we are falling fast because our rules are not serving our nation, but private interests. Large parts of America are still on dial-up and vast regions are on, and stuck with, speeds a tenth of what France has, a twentieth of what some countries have or soon will have universally available.

Nov. 03 2012 09:09 AM
J Easterly from Merrifield, VA

Enlightening, including citing Glasgow, KY initiative and success in creating a better Internet service to its community.

Nov. 03 2012 08:15 AM
Trezlen from South Bend, Indiana

Hi Brooke!

I was listening today and heard your guest (and then you!) make reference to a country that no longer exists: Moldavia. The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic existed from 1940 - 1991. It became Moldova on August 27, 1991 on its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. There is no longer such a country as Moldavia.

Nov. 03 2012 08:02 AM

Can't we thank the AT&T Telecoms Deregulation Act of 1996, aka Telecommunications Act of 1996, for part of this mess? In the upper west side of Manhattan, where the population is 55,000 per square mile, for all practical purposes I have the choice of internet provider from a monopoly cable company or from a monopoly telephone company. Thank you, David.

Nov. 03 2012 07:53 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.