The New York Times just took a peek into the world of Japanese fiber optic broadband, which we all know is much faster and cheaper than ours. While we here in the States might view the Japanese broadband market as some utopia where entire HD movies can be downloaded in seconds, it's not quite that simple.
It seems that NTT, the biggest fiber provider in Japan, has a lot of the same issues Verizon does here: they need to get permission from landlords to hook buildings up with fiber, and once they do they still need to convince people to sign up for it. And after all the big apartment and condo buildings are hooked up, they're stuck doing individual houses.
Overall, setting up a fiber optic network is a very expensive prospect with no real guarantees to making all that money back. Without a lot of current applications that utilize such crazy speeds, there just isn't a big enough demand to justify the expense. So why does Japan throw caution to the wind and spend all sorts of cash to set up this speedy network even though it might not be the most fiscally responsible thing to do in the world?
Well, one of the big reasons is that the Japanese government provides tax incentives for companies to do so, while our government has done basically nothing to encourage a nationwide fiber network. Despite the fact that setting up a completely new wired infrastructure is an incredibly expensive undertaking (just ask Verizon), companies in America are supposed to do it all themselves and make it profitable, something that might not make sense with this situation.
Matteo Bortesi, a technology consultant at Accenture in Tokyo, said that "the Japanese think long-term. If they think they will benefit in 100 years, they will invest for their grandkids. There's a bit of national pride we don't see in the West." I'm pretty sure there's more to it than just national pride and wanting to be first, but there's certainly something to be said for setting up a network now that we'll need in a few years. Chances are, eventually we'll have a nice, fast, cheap, nationwide fiber network that will allow us to download porn faster than we could ever have imagined before, but at the rate we're going, it's going to be a while. [New York Times]