I’m Still Waiting on the Future

When the original Star Trek aired, they used mind-blowing concepts to dazzle their audience. Everyone had personal communicators they carried around on their hips? They stored information on discs that were only the size of a brick? The walls had buttons that blinked everywhere?

Incredible.

Fast forward to 2009. We’re almost an entire decade into the millennium, and I must admit…I’m becoming really disappointed with “the future.” Remember 2001: A Space Odyssey? Well, I can’t say I actually “remember it,” considering that I wasn’t born at the time, but we’re supposed to be walking around and traveling between different spaceship communities! What happened to that?

Where are the Jetson’s air cars?

Why can’t we teleport? I don’t need to go to Mars; I just want to teleport across town and save gas!

Forget all of that stuff. I just want to have an Internet connection that is capable of streaming a high-def movie with NO lag, NO artifacts, NO stuttering, and NO sound compression to make it sound like poo poo in my headphones.

Oh, wait…that kind of Internet connection speed does exist…it just doesn’t exist in the United States. Were you even aware that we State-dwellers rank 15th among developed nations in average broadband speeds? Take a look at this article and this report concerning the issue.

Who is #1? Japan, clocking in at an average broadband speed of 63 MB per second, compared to the United States at 2.3 MB per second. Interpretation: Japan’s average broadband speed is roughly 30 TIMES FASTER than our own. So that you have some point of reference, a Japanese broadband subscriber might download a movie in two minutes that would take an average U.S. subscriber two hours to complete.

To add insult to injury, guess who is second? FRANCE (17 Mbps). Frickin’ France!

Who else is ahead of us? South Korea (49 Mbps), Finland (21 Mbps), and our northern neighbors, Canada (7 Mbps).

The FCC has tried to explain that we’re a more rural-based society than many of these countries (Japan and South Korea are have much denser populations to due their small land mass), and it’s hard to get a broadband penetration rate up in a market like Montana, where an adult man can ride around on a horse for hundreds of miles and pretend like he’s Wyatt Earp (without the fear of anyone watching and chastising him to act his age).

But wait…it gets worse. Not only are U.S. broadband speeds slower, but they’re also significantly more expensive per megabit. From the previously linked BusinessWeek article:

U.S. rates ranged from $2.83 to $38.41 in late 2007. Rates in Japan started as low as 13¢ for one megabit per second, while France, Sweden, Korea, Finland, Australia, and others all start off at lower prices than the U.S.

But why? Glad you asked…

Consumer advocacy groups blame what they see as a market with little competition. They say the ability of major telephone and cable operators, such as Verizon Communications (VZ), AT&T (T), Time Warner Cable (TWX), and Comcast (CMCSA), to dominate their markets without sharing their lines with rivals has kept out new competition, enabling the companies to keep prices high and investments in faster technologies low.

“All of these countries that are outpacing us have much more competitive broadband markets than we do,” says S. Derek Turner, research director at Free Press, a media policy group. “You don’t have the head-to-head competition like you do overseas where they have embraced open-access policies.”

In other words, companies like AT&T and Comcast don’t pursue technologies because AMERICAN CUSTOMERS ARE TOO SATISFIED WITH CRAP TECHNOLOGY TO DEMAND MORE FROM THEM.

What’s the point of great sites like Hulu and offerings like Netflix’s Watch Instantly features if you can’t watch high quality video over the Internet without it chopping up, rebuffering, and looking worse than VHS? This is supposed to be America, a leader in technological development, right?

Wrong.

Asian countries in particular have tended to instill more discipline and motivation into developing skill sets that include something much more valuable than impressing their drunken friends with a new dance move at a club downtown. Nations like Japan, South Korea, India, and China are going to lap us technologically and economically in the foreseeable future while we sit at home, watching NFL games and wondering why the rest of the world seems to no longer look to America for any inspiration.

No, this post does not have a coherent structure or a well-developed point. This is just mindless rambling that morphed into something that it was never supposed to be.

I’ve just been frustrated as of late to hear how Japanese markets have cell phones such as the INFOBAR 2, with which you can do the typical things like Email and texting, but also watch live television over their mandated 3G networks (read that again – they’ve dropped 2G entirely). This isn’t even really a feature to them; it’s common. This is all indicative of a bigger problem: Americans are becoming shallower and less motivated than we realize.

You might say, “Ryan, it’s only broadband speeds!” or, “I love my Blackberry/iPhone!” but the issue, in this case, isn’t really the issue. The difference in our broadband speeds and phone technologies indicates that we’re satisfied with less…

And when has America ever been satisfied with second-best?

Now.

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5 thoughts on “I’m Still Waiting on the Future

  1. Victoria says:

    Personally, I’m not really interested in technology getting tons better because I’ve learned lately that a lot of it just distracts me from pursuing Jesus. I have recently cut out the majority of my computer time (one measure was in deleting my facebook/myspace accounts) and have found it to be one of the best things I’ve done for my life in a long time. I had all this time I was completely ignoring that I now have freed up and can focus on seeking the Lord loads more.

    In the end, when you look back on your life, do you want to remember a lot of time spent watching tv and surfing the internet, or changing history because you turned your focus truly on the Lord and pursued Him relentlessly, ready to give up anything and everything to have Him? I have really been challenged in this area the last few weeks…

    Just an encouragement. Be blessed.

  2. ryanaustindean says:

    I must disagree with you here.

    Yes, if people spend their time gorging themselves on YouTube videos and TV shows on the Internet, then technology is a significant impediment to their spiritual and family lives.

    However, one of the most effective recent ministries of our church has been our live webcasts. Around 70 people log on to watch our services, every single service. Quite a few people in our church have even said before they came and visited, they watched our webcasts. The most common impediment to someone being able to watch us is an inadequate Internet connection.

    Additionally, several technologies online have allowed me to keep in more effective contact with the youth group. Facebook is the most common tool I use to reach them quickly and efficiently. While it doesn’t require a speedy Internet connection, it’s nevertheless a constantly-developing part of the youth group.

    Several technologies such as these two that I’ve already mentioned, as well as the ability to download/upload graphics, videos, and other tools have resulted in our church being more marketable and has allowed us to reach beyond our previous borders.

    Technology can either be the worst or one of the best things to be used by the common person. For instance, without a web-site, blog, and Email, I don’t know that my little photography business would be seeing any results. However, if someone develops an Internet addiction to the point that it replaces time spent with family (or worse, a pornography addiction that threatens a marriage), then it is certainly a stumbling block to their spiritual well being.

    So I agree with you to a certain extent, but the Internet, and technology in general, can be used in ways that will make life, work, and church better.

  3. Victoria says:

    I definitely agree with you, I’m at all not saying the internet or technology is wrong or bad. I enjoy various teaching videos/podcasts and such that have benefited me spiritually. I was just pointing out the need for moderation, because the truth is alot of people DO spend far too much time glued to their tv’s, computers, video games, etc. Many people I know say they wish they could spend more time seeking the Lord, but they aren’t willing to cut out some entertainment time to do it.

  4. Than says:

    Well Geez, if I wasn’t already depressd about the Dow going below 7000 and hitting 12 year lows, I am now. Thanks pal. I can always count on you to brighten my day.

  5. ryaninc says:

    Nice little writeup. I was just discussing how far ahead of the US the rest of the world is when it comes to cellphones, but I’m not at all surprised to learn that we fall behind in other tech areas too.

    But what can we do about it? Call our ISP and demand faster speeds? Move to Japan? Not much to be done, really.

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