New Broadband Data Shows U.S. To Be Thoroughly Mediocre
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has once again released their broadband statistics
for OECD member countries. The OECD's broadband portal
offers statistics that are current up to December 2007 -- the latest data showing we're tops in total broadband subscribers (69.9 million), but still fifteenth in penetration per 100 inhabitants (23%) and 22nd in average monthly subscription price.
The latest data shows that the U.S.'s broadband penetration rate (subscriptions per 100 inhabitants) now sits at 23%, up from 5.49% back in 2002. While 23% is higher than the OECD average (20%), it still places the U.S. in fifteenth place overall, behind countries such as Canada (27%), Finland (31%) and Denmark (35%).
Broadband prices are another area where the United States lags its OECD counterparts, the U.S. coming in at 11th in terms of cost per MB, and 22nd in monthly subscription price. As of October 2007, the average price of a broadband connection in the U.S. was $53.06. Even when getting a helping hand from discount $15-$20 DSL tiers, that's higher than Mexico ($49.81) and South Korea ($37.81) but certainly lower than Norway ($88.07) or Iceland ($97.30). The average price per MB in the U.S. was $12.60 (it's $3.70/Mbps in France, but $97.43/Mbps in Turkey).
Looking at fiber deployment specifically, the OECD's data shows that only 3% of all broadband connections in the United States are fiber. That's not particularly surprising when you consider Verizon's the only major ISP taking FTTH deployment seriously. That 3% fiber rate is vastly better than Canada's 0%, but doesn't come close to the 34% and 40% rates in Japan and South Korea, respectively, where dense urban fiber deployment helps greatly.
Governments should discourage harmful business conduct and practices such as misleading advertising and unjustifiably long consumer lock-in periods.
The gist? We're average. Which is surprisingly good, considering our government's broadband policy consists of letting ISP lobbyists write telecom laws, and then ignoring any and all negative consequences by issuing fluff reports
The OECD has been studying trends
(pdf) far more closely, and offers a number of suggestions to countries looking to improve their overall broadband fortunes. Most involve the government being more than just a puppet of the entrenched monopoly/duopoly:
•Governments need to promote competition and give consumers more choices. They should encourage new networks, particularly upgrades to fibre-optic lines.
•Governments providing money to fund broadband rollouts should avoid creating new monopolies. Any new infrastructure built using government funds should be open access – meaning that access to that network is provided on non-discriminatory terms to other market participants.
•Governments should discourage harmful business conduct and practices such as misleading advertising and unjustifiably long consumer lock-in periods.
•OECD firms and governments need to do more to realize the full potential of broadband and move beyond pilot projects for pressing social issues in areas such as health, transport and the environment.
•Governments need to actively monitor and quantify their own progress with their broadband plans and adjust policies and attention accordingly.
Of course actually having
a broadband policy is a good start. Here in the States, we still haven't even bothered to actually map broadband penetration. Heavy lobbying by incumbent carriers has resulted in an uncompetitive, overpriced duopoly system, yet we're still in the middle of the statistical pack. Imagine what the United States could accomplish with a government that worked for everyone, instead of just AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.