If you pay any attention whatsoever to technology issues, than you know that the United States has a serious problem when it comes to broadband. Compared with most other countries, we in the States have fewer options, pay more and get slower connections when it comes to broadband.
However, the discussions about the failures of broadband in the United States tend to focus on options for regular consumers and on the lack of access for people in rural areas. But there is another party who is also suffering from the lack of broadband options in the United States and who they are might surprise you.
This group that is also being under-served by broadband is business.
Now for many of us, the first real Internet connection we ever used was at our office. How can it be that business is under-served by broadband when it was one of the first groups to invest in Internet connections?
The problem is there is an actual distinction between Internet connections and broadband connections. Yes, nearly every business has access to traditional T1 connections. But a T1 connection isn't ideal for all business cases (especially those that aren't hosting servers) and many businesses would prefer to have the option for the faster downloads and less expensive broadband connection cost provided by cable, DSL or fiber.
However, if your business is located in an office park or large office building, there is a very good chance there are no broadband options available to you.
Here at eWEEK we've been running head first into this issue ourselves. After recently moving to a new office in the Boston area, we began looking for an independent Internet connection for a small testing lab within this office.
Given the size of the lab and the nature of the testing that would take place in the lab, we decided that the best option would be a broadband connection, which would provide faster download speeds and be a quarter of the cost of a T1 connection.
So first we looked at the superfast FIOS option provided by Verizon, but it wasn't available in our office park. Then we tried the two cable companies serving our area, Comcast and RCN, but it turns out our park wasn't wired for either. And then we looked into business DSL options, but it turned out that our office building wasn't able to get DSL.
Now for the record, our office park isn't out in some farm country. We're minutes outside of Boston, right near the classic route 128 technology area and in an office park full of high-tech companies. But despite all of this, when it comes to an Internet connection, we have one choice and one choice only, T1.
It's enough to make us reconsider putting the lab in an office park. If we instead stuck it in someone's garage we would have access to a much wider range of high-speed broadband options. And I've heard from many business associates who have run into similar problems looking for options to T1 connections in their offices.
So why aren't there more broadband options available in some office parks and buildings? A cynical take would say that since many of the same people who provide broadband also provide T1s, they would much rather force businesses into purchasing expensive T1 lines over business broadband offerings that are hundreds of dollars less. On the cable side the argument might be that it isn't worth it to them to run cable into an office park as there isn't any demand for television service there, though the number of satellite TV dishes on the buildings in my office park (and the fact that every office I've worked in or visited has TVs) makes me question this argument.
But whatever the reason, the lack of options for businesses in supposedly high-tech office environments is yet another symptom of the failing broadband infrastructure in this country. And this lack of options is also another drag on the ability of U.S. companies to be competitive in the global market.