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


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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.

WRONG.

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%
This post was edited by dialupinternetuser on 4/20/2008 4:56 PM
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Great post. Broandband is a huge problem for both the United States, and Canada. In Canada it's not AS bad, but it still doesn't compare to the asian countries. I can't even imagine what 100Mbps would be like. Going from dial-up to Broadband is like going from no Internet to having Internet. And you've stated exactly why in your post. Geography. Our countries are just so darn big the logistics of providing access is rather difficult.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know what the perfect solution would be. I think if the government subsidized a major infrastructure project to get Fiber to everyone's home, that'd be great. It's just that the people would need to be willing to have their taxes go to that kind of thing. Though to put things into perspective, I'm sure the amount of money that has been spent on the Iraq war could've made the entire United States be covered in gigabit ethernet.

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I'd be so on board with fiber to the home, but I'm not holding my breath. What are prices like in the US for a broadband connection? What do you think the reason is for such a low adoption rate? I would guess that although broadband connection penetration is low, I'm sure the overall access is still pretty high with schools and libraries offering free access.

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Where I got all the information from came from an article in Newsweek, an American news magazine. The original article can be found here. The magazine is similar to Time, and it is pretty good. I don't know if you can get it in Canada, but if you can I'd advise it. Last weeks issue that the internet thing came from a section about things everybody should know. Also on the topic of the Iraq war, all that money could spent on education and computers would be better. It is a favorite thing for me to complain about. If you hadn't noticed I'm not a big fan of "Dubya" Bush as our President, hence the avatar.
This post was edited by dialupinternetuser on 7/19/2007 7:23 PM
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Yeah, there certainly is a problem with broadband penetration, but it really is a lot to do with infrastructure requirements... Iceland and Korea are much easier to wire because the population is so dense - its worth the money and the telecommunications industry isn't totally entrenched and corrupt... simply look at the net neutrality thing going on. If my ISP is going to try and charge me extra to watch youtube and visit myspace and completely prevent me from using P2P networks regardless of whether I am downloaded illegal content then who cares wehter I have 2, 5, 50, 100 or even 1000mbps? I can't use it for what I want anyway.

I can understand why they're trying to do this; to protect profit margins and dominance over communications. Many areas could be served by cable internet and such VERY easily, but the company wont make much money by doing it so they can maintain their right to provide services to a given area without doing it and preventing others from competing. Building new infrastructure is practically impossible for any smaller company. However in some areas in the states I have heard that verizon has quietly rolled out last mile optical connections with extremely high speeds, minimal set up and monthly cost; but of course to only select areas.

In Canada things have been getting worse, Rogers has completely throttled P2P as of about a year ago... I was on it when that happened and my download speeds dropped from 600k/sec to 20k/sec. I phoned them, and the first tech didn't even understand what my problem was. The next tech I got, when he figured out i was talking about P2P, told me I shouldn't be downloading illegal things. I proceeded into a bit of a yelling match where he wouldn't concede that P2P was not exclusively illegal content and I cancelled my account. I switched to sympatico JUST before they instituted a TERRIBLE bandwidth cap so I'm sticking with this so that I actually have good speed and unlimited usage. Except when I moved to my new location speeds dropped from about 500k/sec to 300k/sec - I phoned them and after a couple chats with tech support they informed me that 300k/sec was a completely reasonable speed for my 5mbps service and I had nothing to complain about. I tried to explain that they were being ridiculous but they wouldnt have it... so I'm still shelling out for the fastest service available but getting speeds more like the regular or light service.
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Same here GT-D.

Rogers is ruining Canada.

First, they rename the SkyDome (and ya, Rogers, I still call it the SkyDome), then they throttle my bandwidth according to their priority schemes. (Not to mention their annoying cold calls) I pay for bandwidth, why do they get to dictate my QoS? ISPs in general are annoying the hell out of me. They want a piece of everything good on the Internet, because they provide the infrastructure (see Net Neutrality). Why should these fat-cats benefit from the hard work of people working hard to build useful web sites and services...ahem.

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Yeah - I can't tell you how glad I am to have got back onto sympatico before the b/w cap back in December. Since I was in high school I've had sympatico, then rogers because of the first 10gb cap on sympatico, then I moved and the cap was gone so sympatico again because it was cheaper and the ultra service was just started (my upload rates on rogers had been crap), then after moving again rogers was the right choice because they started offering a newer faster service, so I shelled out the $100 for the modem, only to have to cancel and go back to sympatico a while later because they first instituted the b/w cap all ofa sudden yet didnt enforce it so I made do, but then throttled P2P down to nothing. So yeah, now back on sympatico... I've looked for a third party provider with comparable rates but they all pretty much have to buy infrastructure use and so on from rogers or bell anyway so you're left with getting a satelite dish which are all pretty expensive and not very good. >_<
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Thank you for not taking the title Newsweek took: "...than EVEN Estonia's".

In my view, the person who wrote the article in Newsweek is pretty ignorant for a tech reporter. Estonia is at the forefront of many e-governance related developments. Broadband penetration is only a small part of that. More importantly, there have been important government and private sector initiatives to provide access and to make people use the access that is provided.

Why does Estonia rank relatively low then? Simple. Because Internet is a community asset. Available to everyone like electricity and running water, in this case via Public Internet Access Points, Country-wide Wimax coverage and an encompassing network of wifi hotspots. When you live in a country where you can open your laptop and connect, you don't really need a "subscription per person". That said: the market in Estonia concerning broadband could be better. Speeds are not nearly as good as in other countries.

I wish I could make my money writing articles with flashy titles from my desk and not checking any facts nor background, like the Newsweek guy seems to do...

So, thank you for pointing out the real issue on this blog, without adding the denigrating "even" ;)
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Good point, ssegaert. Why bash Estonia? I really have no pre-conceived notions on what the broadband adoption is in Estonia. It's definitely an insult to Estonia.

Therefore, I declare today to be Estonia Appreciation Day on ProductWiki!

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Well, al sarcasm or patriotism aside (I'm not even Estonian myself), I wish people who wrote for influential magazines would put in a bit more effort than to look at a list and think "Jeez, Estonia, that must be a bad place, can't believe the US is even worse off than even that country (I don't know anything about but culturally uneducated imagine it is a terrible ignorant place)!".

A little bit of research in even the Newsweek DB itself would have revealed a lot more. Even Dubbya was here once. And yes, e-governance was the focal point of that visit, next to the fact that the Estonians have troops in Iraq. Surely Newsweek must have picked up on that one.

It would have been like writing: "Jeez, even Georgian wine (the country, not the state) is better than Californian!". Imagine, such a backwards country like Georgia producing wine. Hey, wait, I think that is where wine started to be made some 5000 years ago.

Catch my drift? You don't know anything about a place, you look up some first-glance information and decide that the comparison with all-might US must be terrible. Think again.

And in case you wonder: the country in the Dilbert comics is Elbonia. No relation.

Sorry to rant, but if I can do my share for a balanced reporting...
This post was edited by ssegaert on 7/16/2007 6:20 PM

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