June 03, 2010

This is not an admission of guilt...

I’ve become quite the hypocrite. I used to be huge on ownership, you know things and stuff, I started to shed that mantra about two years ago. I couldn’t immediately shed all aspects of the North American belief system. I held onto some last articles. Some possessions, mostly: music and movies. Many people know about my dream to one day have a CD and DVD wall in my house, completely alphabetized and enormous. I used to stand by my decision to support the movie and music industry with authority, almost to the point of scoffing at illegal downloaders. WELL… Korea does messed up shit to people.. I’d been downloading some movies and music at home before I left, but Korea completed the shift. How?? Simple..

The internet in Korea is continuously ranked as one of, if not the highest in the world for download speeds. According to a report published in February this year Korea ranked numero uno. Average download speeds in Korea are 12Mbps, Canada sits at about 4.25Mbps, and the Americans are at a lowly 3.88Mbps. While geography issues can be brought up in defense of the American and Canadian networks. Korea still beats them hands down, and there are many reasons why.

The first and perhaps the most important (yes i'm aware i should have kept this till the end.. but HEY my blog.. mine..). The Korean government is responsible for the creation of the network, basically they built it. The Korean government has invested millions of dollars to help ensure that Korea boasts the highest download speeds and fastest internet in the World. While the American and Canadian governments have sat on the sidelines in hopes that competition would drive the internet speeds higher. Competitive market forces have not won any medals here, in fact they sit broken and dejected like the Jamaican bobsleigh team.. The fact that Korea is a small country with large population density has definitely helped out, To use this as an excuse doesn’t really work, Similar to yelling at sports teams on tv, Canada and the US have taken a passive approach to building their internet networks. Korea is taking a more proactive stand. If the Canadian and American governments were not passive in their efforts, and tackled the issue a similar way who knows?

What is known, is that neither the Canadian or American governments have any plans to take over the internet network development in their respective countries. Both Governments rely heavily upon competition to drive the development of the networks. Both countries will however provide subsidies to develop parts of the network. They only provide a handful of these subsidies to the select providers in each country. Competition what? Rural areas in both countries are hindered by the lack of financing for their internet networks (was the story for me in Balzac). Government will usually hand out the subsidies to tackle these rural network issues. At least the Canadian and American governments at least realize funding problem, and try to help out.

The Korean government, on the other hand, has recently unveiled a $25 million plan to establish a faster network in Korea. Their ultimate goal is to have their internet download speeds running at 1Gps by 2012. This is an average speed btw, I have already experienced these speeds while downloading large files (They may or may not have been comment) and had them downloaded in a matter of minutes, rather than the period of time required for a good nights sleep. The Korean Government’s plan is to run a fiber optic cable into every building. This is a situation where Korea will benefit from its geographical situation. The population density and small size of Korea will allow it to undertake an otherwise enormously expensive venture. The government wants to kill two birds with one stone with this venture. Fiber optics will enhance the internet speeds for one, and it hopes to use fiber optics to launch a new HDTV network with 8 times the clarity of standard HD broadcasts. The potential for fiber optic cable is almost limitless. It’s the Tim Taylor response to the internet and television!

I have benefited from all this immensely; I haven’t been kept in the dark on new TV or movie releases. I’ve also been able to keep up to date with the music scene in North America. ALL while wasting little time! You’d figure I’d be paying a ton for this government sponsored internet. The opposite is true.

Internet prices in Korea are cheaper than both Canada and the US. Um...okay… cheaper is an understatement. Korean internet runs 4x faster than the US at 1/2 the price. The average internet price in Korea is $28/month (close to what I pay), compared to $48/month in the US. I couldn’t find average internet costs in Canada, but I checked out Shaw Cable for Calgary, and for a comparable internet download speeds to what I’m receiving in Korea, $95/month (Not including the dl limits). What’s the reason for the cheap price in Korea? Actually it’s kinda funny; Korean’s are paying less for their internet because of competition. There are literally hundreds of internet providers in the country. I think its hilarious competition is having the correct effect in Korea, and not in North America.

Due to the high download speeds intellectual property theft (Internet piracy) has become a major issue in Korea. The faster internet speeds crippled the countries music and entertainment industry in the late 90s. Recent changes to the law have allowed the Korean government to attempt a crackdown on this crime. Similar laws in Canada and the US don’t exist yet. Like the development of the networks, North America is a tad behind!

While I realize my recent shift into hypocrisy, I’ve attempted to defend my current situation with government sponsored initiatives. I also realize the efforts in Korea aren’t universal, and the path Korea has followed could not be easily followed by North American governments (the whole massive expense thing). I still believe that some effort should be exerted, the armchair has a great butt groove, and governments should get off their ass. I dread my return to the world of slow ‘high speed’ internet. Perhaps I will resume my possession crazy mantra instead of battering keyboards and wasting time waiting. For now however, I’ll enjoy downloading files faster than it would take to buy them.

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