(Seoul) As a high speed internet junkie I have to admit South Korea crushes the U.S. when it comes to low cost access to the internet.
My experience so far in the U.S. has been limited to paying $10 a day at most major hotel chains for a wired connection, $30 a month for wi-fi access or $30 for a home dsl connection. Not bad, but when compared to what I have experienced in Korea we are not even close. I can go to a PC baang or internet cafe and pay less than $2 per hour for access. Considering that I am unlikely to spend more than an hour or so at a time on the net, this is a screaming bargain. To go hourly with T-Mobile for wi-fi will cost $6 an hour by comparison.
What has caused this is an explosion in broadband access in Korea. It is estimated that there are over 11 million broadband accounts there versus about 1.5 million in the U.S. This is largely due to the government actually making it easy to get broadband access which is far different than what our government does.
But, not all the blame should be on our government. The providers of wi-fi for example compete with each other so fiercely that you would have to pay for several different services to ensure complete coverage. One example that I recently came across was from Marriott, the hotel giant. They apparently have gone wi-fi in their hotel lobbies. Yet when you check the website all you get is a statement that says there is a per minute charge but no reference to what that charge is or what network it operates on. On a visit to a Marriott recently there was no indication anywhere in the hotel that it indeed had a wireless hot spot.
While I wait for the U.S. to catch up, I’ll be in my favorite internet cafe checking my e-mail.
One last tip. I just discovered the Yahoo cafe in terminal 2 of the Narita airport in Japan. Free access if you are willing to let them scan your passport. I’m sure privacy advocates will be howling, but I’m cheap and I want my broadband access.