Indeed, the U.S. lags behind Japan, South Korea and much of Europe in terms of broadband speed, and lack of regulation by the U.S. government is partly to blame. Intense lobbying by telecommunications
firms has protected U.S. firms from being opened to wider competition. Competition in the wire market, in particular, is what's driven Japan's rise to prominence. By offering big phone companies huge
subsidies, the Japanese government compelled Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to a nationwide build-out of fiber-optic wire to homes. The shorter, faster wires enable the transfer of information
at speeds of up to 17 times faster than in the U.S.
The result? The Japanese can watch broadcast-quality, full-screen HD television over the Web, an experience that puts our grainy, windowed, broadband video to shame. The quality is so good it even allows doctors to make crucial surgical decisions through video conferencing.