US Broadband Penetration Just Stinks

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The United States has 58.1 million broadband (256 kbps or better) in December 2006, but at 19.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, America is just average at getting broadband to the people.

US Broadband Penetration Just Stinks
US Broadband Penetration Just Stinks
US Broadband Penetration Just Stinks

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released its broadband penetration report for December 2006. This look at 30 countries and their number of broadband subscribers looks good for parts of Europe.

For the United States, it just stinks. The US growth rate for broadband penetration now rates 20th out of the 30 countries. In per capita broadband use, the US is very average, rating in 15th place.

The paltry speeds US providers deliver to customers come at a dear price. An article by Free Press noted an advance look at another OECD report; June’s "The Communications Outlook 2007" says the world’s broadband leaders pay less than $1 per Mbps of service.

Here, our telcos and other ISPs get away with rates of around $10 per Mbps.

"We are failing to bring the benefits of broadband to all our citizens, and the consequences will resonate for generations," said Ben Scott, policy of director of Free Press. "There is no justification for America’s declining status as a global Internet leader."

The Free Press analysis of the OECD report included this nugget:

If broadband penetration were 50 percent of all U.S. homes, economists estimate that consumers would realize a $38 billion annual surplus. If household broadband penetration were at 95 percent, the consumer surplus would be $350 billion.

Let’s go back to around this time last year, where telecom analyst Bruce Kushnick assessed the 1996 Telecom Act and found that its ten year timetable called for 45 Mbps to 86 million US households as of last year. Telecoms enjoyed over $200 billion in tax breaks and other benefits from the Telecom Act.

Now there are calls for fiber to the home by 2015. Om Malik cited a call from the Fiber to the Home Council for Congress and the President to push for 100Mbps connections to the home in eight years.

Considering the influence the telecom industry has with Congress, and President Bush’s lame-duck status, we are not optimistic about seeing 100Mbps to the home by 2015, or even 3015. Telcos make a tidy profit on minuscule bandwidth, and without a revolutionary way to deliver bandwidth that bypasses them, they have no real motivation to change the status quo.

US Broadband Penetration Just Stinks
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  • Laura Unger

    The facts keep reaffirming that the US is falling further and further behind. This is not going to fix itself. Other countries passed us on broadband deployment and speed because they have public policy to make sure high speed networks were built, were made available to all citizens and were affordable. The Speed Matters Campaign at http://www.speedmatters.org has published a policy report that has a lot of information on the problems of our current broadband policy and concrete proposals for change. The first thing it calls for is for the FCC to redefine what it describes as high speed from the ridiculously low 200 kbps and then for a “broadband map of America” so we have an accurate place to start.

    • seaowl

      I agree, we need a policy that not only defines minimum speeds but also sets goals and timelines for buildout. We must ensure that underserved areas get access for essential applications like telemedicine, distance education and E-government. The speedmatters.org website has a lot of good ideas on how we can accomplish this.

  • unityworks


    • bj

      These people are a Union Group whose paychecks come from the Telecomms. And they’ve left out the most important piece of the puzzle for that reason– Net Neutrality.

      • David A. Utter

        I’m not real pleased with the Astroturfing I’ve seen here from the Speed Matters commenters. Their are legitimate views and observations that can be made about our need for better broadband; it’s a topic that doesn’t need artificial groundswell built up for it.

        Astroturfing just gives your political opponents something to use against you later. Just make an honest statement folks, and keep it civil.

      • unityworks
  • bj

    Local Loop Unbundling.

    It’s what works elsewhere. It’s what WAS working here until the Telecomms managed to talk the Courts out of it, bit by bit by bit.

    That damn last bit of wire into the home. If that were looked at differently everything else would change.

    Of course, if the FCC got REAL with the Spectrum Auction, made the bidding anonymous and only opened it up to NEW players, that might do it. With the new wireless protocol and the right spectrum bandwidth, who needs wires? And that’s why Media isn’t reporting THAT story . . .

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