In 1998, when I was in 8th grade, Rogers Cablesystems began a cable internet service in the Matanuska Valley in Alaska where I grew up. I remember going into their strip mall office near Wasilla High to pick up the modem, and the technician grinning as he warned me “You’ll never be able to go back to dialup.”

That connection was 512kb down, 33.6 up (you needed a phone line to send data). If my memory serves me correctly, the cost was about $60 per month, and the modem about $10 a month. Gosh was that fast. Before, I had used a 33.6kb modem because I couldn’t afford a full 56kb model. I went from downloading Mp3s off of Napster at 8KB/s to 60KB/s. My life had indeed changed, and I have never gone back.

That was 15 years ago. Since then, I have moved abroad, but I often yearn to move back in moments of homesickness, and simple want – it’s natural to want to return to a place with which you identify so strongly and where so many family and friends are. But as an adult, I always begin to think about practical things – job, healthcare, housing. Internet access is among those things. So, every now and then I click over to the Matanuska Telephone Association website and see what they’re charging for DSL.

I am continually stunned. No improvements in service in the sense that you would imagine. Their lowest connection costs $55/month with a $25GB/month download cap (my 512kb connection in 1998 had no cap). I do see that they are offering fiber in some areas, which is great, but the costs are outrageous. $110 dollars per month for a 40 megabit connection, also with a $25 gigabyte download cap. I don’t understand who would buy this plan. On a connection like that, you could download 25 gigabytes in an hour.

I simply don’t understand what the reasons or excuses are for zero improvement in services or reduction in prices over the past 15 years. I understand that Alaska has a limited connection to the rest of the US, and that bandwidth is not cheap. But how does the rest of the world provide far better service? I live in a rural Japanese town of 6,000 people, about 30 miles from the nearest city, and I am writing this on an unlimited fiberoptic connection that costs me ~$50 dollars a month.

So let’s compare:

Ok, so these are a bunch of nice numbers, but unfortunately they are all the same size. Let’s make the font sizes proportional to the vast gulf in services:

Here in rural Japan, I am paying 1/5th as much for a service that is 2.5-8 times as fast. Someone explain this to me. I can’t give up my fiber.


3 Responses to “Internet Speeds: Hokkaido vs. Alaska”  

  1. 1 Tim Brown

    So long as the average Alaska consumer can be sold on the idea that what they are paying for is rural bandwidth and not outright price gouging nothing is going to change.

  2. 2 ryan s

    If you did a similar graph with more places in the USA than just rural AK, the picture would look a bit better, but in most rows the number in Japan would have to be almost as huge as it is now. Basically internet sucks in the USA, also cellphone service sucks in the USA.

  3. 3 ryan s

    Also, and I know this is not exactly a timely addendum, but I think you will have no choice but to agree on this point: You have printed the infinity symbol too small.

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