Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Super-Fast Broadband

What's the point of giving everyone super-fast broadband?  The urge to "do something" about not-so-fast internet is a part of a broader issue Yglesias calls social policy nationalism.  We can't let Japan/South Korea/Scandanavia have better 'x' then us, so we need the government to step in and spend lots of money to give that to us.  

In the case of broadband access, I really don't see the point.  Connecting to the internet yields pretty large returns,  but the additional benefits of ever-faster internet are very diminishing.  Beyond the point at which you can load most sites within a few seconds, the additional benefits go entirely towards downloading illegal videos.  

But still, my willingess to pay for internet is probably very high.  Enormous consumer surplus here, part of a general picture over the last ~15 years in which technological improvements and gains from trade have tremendously improved quality of life without impacting measured GDP very much.  If America circa 1994 were a country, people would be immigrating here (maybe not right now).

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