Commentary

U.S. Broadband Still National Embarrassment

Here's the good news: Average broadband speed has now reached 4.7 Mbps, up from 3.9 Mbps last year, according to Akamai's first quarter report.

But here's the bad news: Speeds in the U.S. are slower than in 15 other countries, including South Korea (12 Mbps), Romania (6.3 Mbps), and Switzerland (5.3 Mbps).

Akamai also looked at the fastest broadband connection by cities, but the U.S. lagged in this metric as well. No U.S. city made the top 10, or even top 50. Instead, the fastest broadband city in the U.S. -- Monterey, Calif., with average connections of 25 Mbps -- placed 57th worldwide, according to Akamai. The fastest was Masan, South Korea, at around 41 Mbps.

The U.S. also lags in terms of adoption, with only 56% of Web connections at speeds of at least 2 Mbps, Akamai reports. Forty other countries -- including Switzerland (91%), Bulgaria (89%) and Belgium (87%) -- had higher adoption rates.

While some U.S. residents eschew broadband because they think it costs too much or they don't see the need for it, millions of people lack broadband because they can't obtain the service. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission told Congress last week that Internet service providers weren't deploying broadband in a "reasonable and timely fashion" given that between 14 million and 24 million Americans have no access to high-speed lines

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4 comments about "U.S. Broadband Still National Embarrassment".
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  1. Robert Marich from MarketingMovies.net, July 30, 2010 at 8:11 p.m.

    The "embarassment" here is not recognizing geography and population density skews comparisons. Switzerland (I've been there!) has its population crammed in a small area that is easy to service (ditto Japan, South Korea). Meanwhile, the USA stretches from sea to shining sea with large populations scattered in the West where it's not economical to string wires to all homes. Where I llive in NYC suburbs, I have at least four broadband options--good service at reasonable prices. USA is doing fine.

  2. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks, July 31, 2010 at 12:20 p.m.

    There is a fly in the ointment of Negroponte's 'Frogs and Lily Pads' (his reasonable observation that -long-term- it might be compellingly efficient to use broadcast spectrum for transmitting data whilst shifting spectrum wasting TV and radio content to wired services). The same bug fouled Joseph Pelton's solution of a "merge" in which he foresaw wireless technology and fixed broadband communications coming together in an "invisible digital cloud." That 'bug' is 'greed.'

  3. David Weller, July 31, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.

    I agree with Robert that geography and population density are important factors when comparing the US as a whole to other countries. The American northeast and southeast are a better comparison to countries like Korea, Belgium, etc. I wonder what the broadband penetration and speeds are in that 1/3 of the US? Are they on par with the smaller, denser, top performing countries? My feeling is that no, they're not. So the question becomes ..why not?

    Population density of the continental US:
    http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/uploads/2010/02/usa-2000-population-density.gif

  4. Bennet Kelley from Internet Law Center, August 2, 2010 at 1:34 p.m.

    I agree with Wendy and I am afraid Robert's comments misses the mark. Population density was not an issue when the US ranked 7th in Akamai's 2008 study. Even taking it into account, Sweden and Canada are not as densely populated as the US but have greater speeds according to the latest study.

    Also, if Robert's theory was correct then the disparity should not exist when comparing speeds by cities - but the US does not have a single city in the top 50 as its top city (Monterrey Park, CA) is ranked 58th.

    This is an issue of our future competitiveness and we are yawning while countries like Romania and Latvia pass us.

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