When examining worldwide broadband metrics, broadband penetration is followed by speed or sometimes “capacity”. In this respect, namely speed, Japan ranks number 1. It must be mentioned that different countries advertise different download speeds when highlighting their broadband pedigree.
“Despite its limitations, speed, usually stated in terms of theoretical or advertised download speed, sometimes upload, has been the basis of measurement in the past decade and it is, in some countries, currently used by governments to define their own national goals—Australia (100Mbps), Austria (25Mbps), Finland, (1 Mbps by 2010, 100 Mbps by 2015), Germany (50 Mbps), Spain (30Mbps), and UK (2Mbps as universal service to 90% of population, 40-50Mbps in broad use),” said Harvard University.
When examining country rankings based on various speed measures the United States hovers at the 11th position with the UK lagging at 18th.
The Harvard report also examines some specific peculiarities to the UK, stating that:
… New competitors, increased penetration, and decreased prices. It is also clear that cable offered a competitive alternative as well, although the UK firms have been late, by comparison to other countries, to introduce very high-speed services. Whether the application of a similar open access regime to the cable infrastructure would have encouraged to expand earlier, or whether it would have deterred investments, remains a matter of speculation.
According to the report, the United States was initially about a decade ahead of most OECD countries (including UK) in terms of deregulation, or what Europeans call liberalization, of broadband. This lead has largely been eroded although many studies suggest the U.S. does perform well in terms of e-commerce and online content, which is situated higher up the Infrastructure stack.
For instance, South Korea is considered a leader in broadband infrastructure, mainly because it seems to be freer from regulation and because housing patterns over there favor broadband adoption.
The report also confirms that in 2001 the UK’s per inhabitant penetration was 1/7th the level of penetration in the United States at the time. In 2006, Britain overtook the United States.
“On the negative side, while BT is planning investments in new, next generation fiber Infrastructure, currently the UK does not have significant fiber to the home or very high speed DSL service. Its sole source of very high speed service is its sole major cable provider, Virgin Media, at 50Mbps,” said Harvard University.
While the U.S. and U.K. governments are moving ahead with stimulus investments in broadband, they are by no means at the top of the list.
This honor falls to Australia, Austria and Canada who form the top three. Even tiny Luxembourg is ahead of Great Britain and the U.S.
“Observing both longer term and stimulus investments, it appears that the United States has spent more in the stimulus mode than most other nations, but less than the most publicly-funded nations, in particular Sweden, as well as South Korea and Japan,” said Harvard University.
The final analysis
While the UK seems to have the edge over the US in terms of broadband, they both lag the rest of the world in many respects. It would also be dangerous perhaps to suggest that America is a second-rate broadband nation.
The 2011 World Economic Forum global survey ranks the United States first in Internet competition. Through 2010 the number of American subscribers to fiber-based services was more than double that of Europe,” said the New York Times.
However, it must be stated that the above statistic is largely aimed fixed landlines; not the emerging nomadic, wireless revolution, which is sweeping the world.
The NYT also reports “in Japan, broadband service running at 150 megabits per second (Mbps) costs $60 a month. The fastest service available now in the United States is 50 Mbps at a price of $90 to $150 a month. “
“The large European countries have average download speeds ranging from 3.2 Mbps in Italy to 6.4 Mbps in Germany, according to a study by the Saïd Business School at Oxford. The United States has an average speed of 5.2 Mbps. The study looked at speeds in May 2008, as measured by consumers checking their connections on a Web site called Speedtest.net.”
In conclusion, there can be no doubt that over the last decade or so US broadband performance has declined while the opposite is true for the UK. However, the US is very aware of this gap and intends closing it through its National Broadband Plan and by adopting similar monitoring activities to the UK’s Ofcom, with respects a national broadband map. Unfortunately, these efforts may not be nearly enough.
Guest Blogger: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter @_jason_stevens_
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