True or False: The United States Broadband Penetration is the Highest in the World?

Posted by avatardialupinternetuser last updated April 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Note: This thread was originally called True or False: The UNited States Broadband Penetration is the lower than Estonia's? However, it was brought to my attention that the title was somewhat offensive towards people from Estonia and it was changed. The article still makes some references to that title, so this add-in should clear up any confusion.


The internet. It's what you are on as you are reading this. It has connected the world. Your friends on MySpace and Facebook are only a click away. The internet was originally developed in the U.S., and it's capital is Silicon Valley. And you might think that because the U.S. is the top dog, or so it seems, that the best broadband internet and the most people with broadband would be in the U.S.


The answer to the question in the title, is sadly True. Broadband Penetration, or the percentage of people with broadband is lower in the U.S. than Estonia. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, did several studies on countries and broadband. When 30 developed countries were ranked on broadband adoption, the U.S. ranked 15th. 6 months ago the U.S. was 12th. When ranked against all countries on broadband penetration, the U.S. ranked 24th. A greater percentage of people in Iceland have broadband than people in the U.S. We are still leading in the number of people connected (60 million), however China is gaining on us, with 54 million people connected. President George W. Bush said that by 2007 all Americans would have access to affordable broadband. However, only one in four people in rural areas have broadband internet, compared to 40% of the people in urban areas, mainly because the larger internet companies such as Comcast (the leading cable provider) and AT&T (the leading DSL provider) don't run the cable and DSL lines out to the farther rural areas because they don't find it profitable enough and as the cable gets longer and longer, the signal strength gets lower and lower. And for more governmental stupidity, is how the FCC measures broadband access. If one building in a zip code is connected, such as a library or a school, then all the residents in that zip code are counted as having access.

Not only are less people connected, the people who are connected have much lower speeds in the U.S. than everywhere else. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) defines broadband internet with either an upstream or downstream speed of 200kbps or higher. While that is faster than the 28.8kbps average of dial-up internet, which can only reach 56.6kbps, it is still no good for even YouTube, let alone downloading larger files. Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, head of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, says that we should only call it broadband if it is 2mbps or higher, much better than what we have now, but lower than other countries 50 or ever 100mbps service. Cisco CEO John Chambers, is a leader in the quest for better broadband. Not only is it good for America, it is needed for things such as Cisco's TelePresence.

The U.S. also pays more for their lower speeds. AT&T charges $35 dollars a month as it's starting deal for up to 1.5mbps download and 256kbps upload. Comcast charges $40 for up to a 4mbps download speed. In Japand, people pay $35 dollars a month for 50mpbs a second. Part of the U.S.'s problem is because the choices are generally limited to one cable and one DSL provider. There may be several satellite providers, however they charge $70 a month for not even up to 1mbps service.

And FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin says "I think our policies are a success." I think not. If they were, I wouldn't have dial-up because I live far enough away from my neighbors that I can't see into their windows.


I'll add some statistics for you to ponder after you finished reading:

  • U.S. Broadband Penetration - 50%
  • Korean Broadband Pentration - 90%