While experts debate the immediacy of the challenge, they agree that it points to a larger issue. In the Internet era, they say, high-speed networks are increasingly the economic and scientific petri dishes of innovation, spawning new businesses, markets and jobs. If American investment lags behind, they warn, the nation risks losing competitiveness to countries that are making the move to higher-speed Internet access a priority.
“The long-term issue is where innovation happens,” Professor Odlyzko said. “Where will the next Google, YouTube, eBay or Amazon come from?”