Sunday, September 02, 2007

America's growing broadband gap with Japan

In the 1980s, the United States fretted about a management gap with Japan. Japanese business management techniques such as kaizen -- continuous, systematic improvement -- and a focus on quality control fostered an inferiority complex on the part of American business leaders.

Now the U.S. is about to develop a new inferiority complex with the Japanese: it's fallen far behind Japan when it comes to broadband Internet, The Washington Post reports. "America may have invented the Internet but the Japanese are running away with it," the newspaper reports, noting that Japanese broadband service is eight to 30 times faster than in the U.S. Japan boasts the world's fastest Internet connections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, The Post adds, citing recent studies.

Japan's speedy Internet access is helping the nation fulfill its goals of allowing more people to telecommute -- work from home -- and increasing the use of telemedicine, which allows doctors to remotely diagnose and evaluate a person's medical condition without the need for the patient to travel long distances to see a specialist.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is interested in telemedicine and recently announced $25 million in grant funding for "expanding broadband capabilities to support telemedicine, tele-health and e-health programs."

Schwarzenegger has also formed a Broadband Task Force that is due to issue a report next month on the state of broadband access in California. What it will likely find is California, which likes to view itself as a leader in information technology and innovative public policies, is like the rest of the U.S., falling far behind Japan when it comes to broadband access, making it difficult for the governor to fulfill his goal of expanding telemedicine in the Golden State.

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