Episode 3: Actual Speeds May Vary

Published on
May 1st, 2019
29 minutes

Episode 3: Actual Speeds May Vary

Discoveries ·
Featuring Justine Underhill

Published on: May 1st, 2019 • Duration: 29 minutes

What kind of future are we building with the tools we have today? Justine Underhill’s examination of that question now leads her to high-speed internet access. As she explores the opportunities it could unlock, from education to health care, she uncovers a web of politics and regulatory capture that may be preventing faster service in the U.S. Along the way, she speaks with Ted Rappaport, the founder of NYU Wireless and the Brooklyn 5G Summit, Susan Crawford, author of Fiber, and former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. She also visits Chattanooga, Tennessee to find out why the city has some of the fastest internet speeds in the country. Filmed in New York and Chattanooga in April, 2019.



  • DS
    Dan S.
    12 October 2019 @ 19:40
    Remember ISDN? Competitive LECs? All that innovation? Then GWB signed a regulation that made the CLEC biz impossible, There is no reason fiber and coax cannot be multiplexed with multiple vendors for competition. But regulations do not allow this, So we have stagnation as capital goes to executive bonuses and stock buybacks.
  • JM
    Joe M.
    19 June 2019 @ 21:50
    Really enjoy this series. When will we see the next episode?
  • JR
    Jared R.
    29 May 2019 @ 18:57
    These pieces are fantastic - great work Justine and team. Polished, educational, and entertaining...Grant's got some competition!
  • TS
    Tim S.
    8 May 2019 @ 18:05
    Really nice exploration of the topics. Succinct and compelling, well done.
  • PD
    Pat D.
    7 May 2019 @ 05:29
    Using the early history of Electricity as an analogy amplified the clarity of this piece. I was shocked to learn how set back America is with access to Fibre. However, I was not surprised to learn about the challenges of "controlling monopolies". That, unfortunately, will be a constant in society regardless of the service and/or product
  • XT
    Xuan T.
    1 May 2019 @ 15:19
    I know a lot of subscribers here are Americans but the US is literally a backwater, in terms of internet connection, compared to China, and tons of other places in Asia for that matter. In 2012, I lived in the US for a year and mobile data plan was outrageously expensive. I was paying $2-3/month for 3GB of 3G data in Vietnam. My phone plan in the US at the time was around $40/month. Now in 2019 in Vietnam, I'm paying $5/month for almost unlimited 4G data (prioritized connection for the first 5GB and slower connection thereafter). Then in 2015 I visited China and got totally disenchanted of the whole USA thing. When Chattanooga name came up in this documentary, I Googled it immediately and my first reaction was: "Your 'success story' of fully fiber-connected city is a small town of 170,000 in population. Seriously???"
    • WM
      Will M.
      5 May 2019 @ 14:43
      I agree with you Xuan. We appear to put up up with high prices for internet services that are less than stellar here in the uS
    • KC
      Kenneth C.
      5 May 2019 @ 17:15
      The size of the city is part of the point of the episode. That you have all these larger cities with inferior connectivity due crony capitalism and govt actually provided a lower cost solution is the point. But I do have a question if you see this. It's touted that internet is cheaper and much better in Southeast Asia. How is that paid for? Is it a system of companies offering service in competition? Is a low cost subsidized by govt? Are buildout costs being carried by govt on their books? I'm interested.
    • XT
      Xuan T.
      6 May 2019 @ 13:03
      Kenneth: Mobile infrastructure, 3G/4G and fibre in particular, is pretty commoditized at this point. Huawei, ZTE and even Viettel in Vietnam produce their own equipment. World class quality, but dirt cheap. Network engineer, in Southeast Asia, is considered a very low-level blue collar job and is not very well paid. I used to recruit Vietnamese network engineers who had international working background with 7-10+ years of exp. Their monthly wage was $700-1000/month. Telcos in this region can set up nationwide mobile networks within 12-18 months, at the fraction of the cost compared to developed countries. I can't speak for other countries, but for the case of Vietnam, the army established their own for-profit telco - Viettel and uses almost-free army engineer resources to deploy mobile network all around the country, and even expand to other South American and African countries. Capitalism in the name of socialism. Sounds like a very weird concept to the Western ears, but I used their networks in a few countries and it's actually pretty good.
  • NI
    Nate I.
    1 May 2019 @ 18:38
    Great work by Justine and the RV crew. Game theory says you need at least 6 players to have real competition. The US is served by two or three. Internet won't improve rapidly until that's fixed. The US has cronyism masquerading at capitalism and a DOJ that approves merger after merger offering fewer and fewer choices to consumers - not only with Internet, but with almost everything.
    • DR
      David R.
      1 May 2019 @ 20:05
      Nate, you nail it. The US has cronyism not capitalism. The country is going to adopt socialism due to all the clueless brainwashed millennials embracing/voting for socialism, as they wrongly blame capitalism for these ills of cronyism. Wait and see how bad it gets if you next have socialist cronyism.
    • WM
      Will M.
      5 May 2019 @ 14:47
      We are heading the same way with Banks, Airlines, Health Care and many other examples. The goal seems to be consolodation to produce monopolies.
  • BS
    Brian S.
    2 May 2019 @ 18:54
    Good video overall,; but some obvious questions you didn't address: WHY is competition failing in these markets (most likely regulatory reasons, I'm guessing; meaning the companies have bought off politicians for laws that benefit them, which is most likely why Chattanooga can't expand even more). Unlike what someone below said, the free market has not failed, and more state intervention would not help. Again, the why there's little competition in most markets would be helpful. Also, no mention whatsoever of potential health risks of 5G (I don't know if there's truth to it, but there are serious scientists saying it is a risk). Nonetheless, you won't get this on CNBC!
    • tc
      thomas c.
      5 May 2019 @ 09:41
      I also noted no mention of health risks. I want to send Justine a few articles. The evidence is overwhelming and unreported. The telecom world's long history of hiding the damaging effects of their technologies will finally boil over if 5g becomes a street corner reality.
  • RN
    Robert N.
    4 May 2019 @ 21:29
    Charles Kao, the inventor of fibre optics, died just a few months ago. He was my next door neighbour in Hong Kong and a very humble gentleman. Most people around him didn't know of his impact on the world. Few even knew of his Nobel Prize "for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication." https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2009/kao/facts/ He deserves to be better known.
  • YW
    Yowshi W.
    4 May 2019 @ 16:47
    Excellent.. thank you
  • SU
    Shakeel U.
    3 May 2019 @ 19:31
    Absolutely brilliant 😀
  • CS
    Chris S.
    2 May 2019 @ 12:31
    This makes me think that for some purposes of public interest (communication, transport, health, education) the free market economy has failed and more state might be more productive than less state.
    • SW
      Scott W.
      3 May 2019 @ 14:20
      I think Aidan F. makes a good point in this regard. Free market competition is not dead across the board in the US (it flourishes actually in many pockets) but the larger a private organization, the more it can use the legal framework to protect itself. So-called monopoly, and legal and medical professions in particular enjoy daunting protections - the latter two via longstanding prestige and proximity to the reins of power, the former often enough by unintended consequence from (ironically) federal rules and interventions. One can hardly argue that education or health care in the US are free market; many argue persuasively that real free markets are where material solutions exist.
  • BX
    Ben X.
    1 May 2019 @ 19:41
    I live in Beijing and Houston. So I'm familiar with this matter. The internet I have in Beijing cost about $1000 for five years. But that's intranet. The great fire wall blocked all the useful contents outside China. Maybe the internet in Korea and Japan is more comparable to the United States. Please keep in mind, Large portion of Korean and Japanese live in Seoul and Tokyo. It's inherently easier for the telecommunication company to manage the infrastructure in dense populated area. My point is China is a very weak enemy of United States. Very long way to go. The biggest obstacle of the Chinese economy is the Communist Party. Great piece of documentary, Justine. I hope to see more content like this
    • DR
      David R.
      1 May 2019 @ 20:01
      "The biggest obstacle of the Chinese economy is the Communist Party." Indeed. Likewise for the government and western economies (which have failed and are on life support via radical policy that's only exacerbating things for the long run).
    • JC
      Jerry C.
      2 May 2019 @ 01:21
      Everyone I know in China uses VPN. It’s pretty simple to get around the firewall
    • BX
      Ben X.
      2 May 2019 @ 05:01
      Maybe the people you know are all young geeks who know how to purchase or set up a server for them to use. The majority of the Chinese people do not know how to access the Free internet or read English. Imagine the internet without left or right and without conflict between CNN and fox. There is only one voice and that's the propaganda of the communist party. 99.9% of the people lost the ability to identify false Information or the ability to do critical thinking. That's what happening in China right now. Fiber optic internet doesn't help in this situation. The sad things about China is the people already get used to this kind of administration or the past 3000 years. Sad sad sad.
    • JC
      Jerry C.
      3 May 2019 @ 04:53
      They’re hardly young geeks. They’re mostly older professionals. It’s as simple as downloading an app and paying for a service and free guides are widely circulated.
  • JH
    Joel H.
    3 May 2019 @ 03:26
    Here's a piece you'll never see on CNBC. Excellent work RV, thanks!
  • DJ
    Dhananjay J.
    3 May 2019 @ 01:24
    Felt like I was watching one of those Netflix documentaries, what is next on the menu - which foods to eat, oh wait we have Netflix for that.
  • CW
    C W.
    2 May 2019 @ 16:06
    I think this documents an interesting example of how capitalism can often be made to work better by regulatory prodding and challenges. I am sometimes dismayed that a country like the US, with its abundance of talented people and resources, get mired in a debate about capitalism vs socialism. My own observation is that no economy that works relatively well is almost fully one or the other. My own belief, and it's purely a belief, is any good system is a capitalist leaning one that is tempered by socialistic instincts like fairness, humanity and justice. Empty sounding words perhaps but that's how I tend to think about issues
    • CW
      C W.
      2 May 2019 @ 16:07
      Btw, I greatly enjoy this series by Ms Underhill. Great work, and thank you!
    • PP
      Patrick P.
      3 May 2019 @ 00:03
      "by socialistic instincts like fairness, humanity and justice"....C.W. do you mean like what's happening in Venezuela? Socialism never ends well.
  • RE
    Richard E. | Contributor
    2 May 2019 @ 18:49
    I find this series to be extremely thought-provoking and helpful. Well done!
  • DW
    David W.
    2 May 2019 @ 14:05
    Now, this is quality journalism! Congratulations.
  • MB
    Michael B.
    2 May 2019 @ 11:41
    Congratulations on an excellent report. Fibreoptics are a lot safer than wireless. Just take a look online at the potential health problems with 5G using the same frequencies as energy weapons and its not so compelling despite the incredible connection speeds. Also stick with western company tech. CIA recently put Huawei on a high risk list for built in risk of spyware. If China is so willing to spy on their own people for CCP interests they will not hesitate to include us as well.
  • AF
    Aidan F.
    2 May 2019 @ 09:06
    free market competition dead in private sector, situation protected by laws made by gov and laws paid for by big corporate....
  • CR
    Cristian R.
    2 May 2019 @ 08:42
    This was great. Thank you.
  • NA
    N A.
    2 May 2019 @ 04:28
    Truly fascinating, thank you!
  • CL
    Clinton L.
    2 May 2019 @ 01:51
    In the late 1990's, when I lived in Carpentersville Illinois, I used dial-up from SBC Telecom. Periodically research to learn of available alternatives. As part of my research I would call on SBC Telecom to talk to the group planning DSL/ADSL services to learn if my area would soon outfitted, they'd always tell me my area was not in consideration. Then finally my research turned up an wireless Internet provider installing a base-station on my towns water-tower with the possibility of providing me service within the month! I called SBC and inquired only to learn that my area was not in consideration of DSL/ADSL with no plans. I signed up for the wireless service. .... one week before my wireless service came online SBC came knocking at my door asking if I'd like to signup for their DSL/ADSL service. They had numerous people out in my neighborhood going door to door. I was shocked and amused. The wireless competitor forced SBC to service my neighborhood. Conversations with some guys at work turn up knowledge of newly built neighborhoods in sight of newly built not-quite-central-offices where no Internet service besides dialup was offered by SBC.
  • DL
    David L.
    2 May 2019 @ 01:27
    Very Cool Piece.
  • RF
    Richard F.
    2 May 2019 @ 00:03
    Excellent reporting by a really smart La Femme. Please keep up the fine work. RAF
  • SS
    Sam S.
    1 May 2019 @ 20:02
    I'm in Phoenix and for several years now have had Fiber Optics through Cox. It's awesome beyond my initial understanding, before I hooked up. As this subject grows in demand, which companies will thrive and prosper?
  • JS
    Jaco S.
    1 May 2019 @ 19:43
    Excellent, thank you.
  • WM
    William M.
    1 May 2019 @ 18:29
    China can roll out fiber and 5G much faster than the US. China Mobile built a huge fiber network in the past couple of years and now is the biggest fixed line internet provider. If you can stomach the risks of investing in China, China Mobile (CHL) is extremely well positioned and unbelievably cheap. The problem is the government owns over 70% of it and CHL will soon be able to buy back 10% of its shares and the government will own 80%. But maybe the government's end game on CHL will be to move toward greater privatization by selling off some of their position...which could yield tens of billions for them... I love this series, Justine is superb.
  • MH
    Marco H.
    1 May 2019 @ 17:26
    The past months I felt to have only access to the memories of some really great people. Really great but they did not broaden my horizon. RV started to disappoint. Justine's work is the opposite. Well made with a focus on the future. In shaping my investment horizon programs like this create food for thought. Thanks a lot.
  • RP
    Raoul P. | Founder
    1 May 2019 @ 11:22
    Just incredible. So proud!
    • EW
      Ethan W.
      1 May 2019 @ 17:12
      I think work like this is more interesting then alot of the interviews. not because of anything personal with anyone, they are all interesting people. but because this offers a new view an a ability to see an entire industry and an entire problem.
  • TB
    Thomas B.
    1 May 2019 @ 16:45
    Great job RV & Justine. This series and episode are amazing. I look forward to each one.
  • CM
    Christopher M.
    1 May 2019 @ 15:32
    Bravo, Justine. There are so many great videos on this site, and you can add this one to the list.
  • TJ
    Terry J.
    1 May 2019 @ 14:17
    Awesome documentary on both the exciting future potential of fibre optics and the history of electricity in the US. RV just keeps pushing the envelope. Great work Justine and team!
  • BD
    Bruce D.
    1 May 2019 @ 12:21
    China is at 80% fiber??? America had better wake up quickly, and get the plan set......or we will lose the 5G race. Excellent work Justine!
    • CS
      Colton S.
      1 May 2019 @ 12:49
      They'll be at 80% "in short order."
  • HA
    Hammad A.
    1 May 2019 @ 12:29
    Amazing and full of knowledge
  • DL
    David L.
    1 May 2019 @ 12:03
    Well done, nice job. Especially enjoyed the parallels with early roll out of the electrical system.
  • JB
    Jack B.
    1 May 2019 @ 10:24
    That was fantastic! Gee China is cranking things up!!
  • DF
    Dominic F.
    1 May 2019 @ 09:43
    Fantastic show and Fantastic series. Super professional production. Well shot and edited and Justine is an excellent journalist/presenter. There were many issues highlighted here, some quite negative about cronyism and how the private and public sectors (don't) relate to each other. But also a very exciting and hopeful message about how wonderful things can be achieved if the cronies piss off and allow technology to really benefit humanity. Bravo RV team. Nice work :-)
  • JS
    John S.
    1 May 2019 @ 09:20
    Great job, Justine
  • PD
    Paul D.
    1 May 2019 @ 09:18
    What an informative half an hour. The electricity history lesson was very illuminating if you pardon the pun. Thanks all.
  • SG
    Sashi G.
    1 May 2019 @ 08:17
    Nice wide-ranging coverage beyond the basic of high speed connectivity, getting into the regulatory regime that sometimes (or maybe most times) slows down adoption. Technology is not really the issue; it's there!