In The Papers: International Broadband Comparisons

Scott Wallsten has a very interesting paper out, entitled Understanding International Broadband Comparisons 2009 Update.


This paper updates my May 2008 analysis of cross-country broadband data where new information is available. Household broadband adoption continues to increase quickly in all OECD countries. U.S. household broadband penetration increased from 47 percent in March 2007 to 63 percent in April 2009, meaning the U.S. ranks somewhere between 8th and 10th in household broadband penetration among OECD countries. If current trends continue, the U.S. and nearly all wealthy OECD countries will reach a saturation point within the next few years. Speeds continue to increase around the world. Four OECD countries — Korea, Japan, Sweden, and the Netherlands at 18, 15, 12, and 9.4 mbps — had average download speeds well above others in the first quarter of 2009. Another 12 countries had average download speeds between 6 and 8 mbps, including the U.S. with an average of 6.4 mbps. Though the U.S. has, on average, slower download speeds than some other countries, consumers in the U.S. download far more movies and music per capita via the Internet than do consumers in the U.K, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, or Japan (the only countries considered in a recent Ofcom study), suggesting that these speeds are not seriously hindering growth in online video. In terms of prices, the U.S. appears to have among the least expensive low-end broadband plans but among the more expensive high-end plans. More broadly, the U.S. remains at or near the top of many other ICT indicators including the latest estimates of IT investment.

Just looking at OECD broadband penetration rates, the US is at 63% of households as of April 2009, which puts them somewhere in the 8th to 10th position (1).  Interestingly, the US also has very inexpensive low-end and very expensive high-end plans (1).  Aggregating the EU25 together, they have 36% broadband connection coverage in terms of households, primarily because the coverage rates in central and eastern Europe are rather low (2).  US consumers tend to download more music and watch more movies online, indicating that even though US low-end plans are rather, well, low-end, they are still sufficient to watch Netflix (7-8).  Finally, one trend that is common across all OECD countries:  broadband expansion rates are increasing rapidly (18).