WASHINGTON, DC - May 20 - According to data released today by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), at the end of 2007 the United States ranked 15th out of the 30 member nations in broadband penetration -- down from 12th place in 2006, and continuing its slide from fourth place in 2001.
"International comparisons cause a lot of hand-wringing in the United States, with apologists furiously working to excuse or poke holes in the results," said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press. "But the reality is that because we lack meaningful broadband competition in this country, consumers pay too much for connections that are too slow. And many Americans -- especially in rural communities -- still don't even have high-speed Internet access. We need solutions -- not excuses."
According to analysis by Free Press:
- Even after accounting for factors like income, geography and education, more than a dozen countries are still ahead of the United States in broadband penetration.
- Consumers in over two-thirds of the OECD nations pay less on average per month for broadband than consumers in the United States. Only seven countries pay more: Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Mexico, Iceland, Hungary, Poland and Norway.
- In nearly half of the other OECD countries, the average advertised maximum download speeds are faster than the those in the United States. Ten countries have faster advertised cable modem download speeds than the United States. Twenty-six countries have faster advertised DSL download speeds -- the United States is only slightly ahead of Mexico, Turkey and Poland.
- The fastest advertised download speed in the United States was 50 Mbps -- in Finland, France, South Korea and Sweden it was 100 Mbps, and in Japan, consumers can buy 1,000 Mbps connections.
The OECD report emphasized the importance of pro-competitive policies in improving broadband penetration. The report recommended that governments take a proactive approach toward ensuring competition in the broadband marketplace:
- "Governments need to promote competition and give consumers more choices. They should encourage new networks, particularly upgrades to fiber-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."
Free Press found that the countries with open access policies had nearly twice the level of broadband penetration as those that did not.
"The fact is that the countries outperforming the United States have something we lack -- a coherent national broadband policy," said Turner. "Policymakers who are serious about America's economic and social well-being should focus on the open access policies that bring the benefits of broadband to all Americans."
The new OECD data can be found: http://www.oecd.org/sti/ict/broadband.
Read Free Press' broadband report Shooting the Messenger.
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