European, Asian firms lap U.S. rivals in broadband

Faster, cheaper connections overseas

The U.S. is lagging badly behind its European and Asian rivals when it comes to broadband, coming in 14th place in terms of speed and 21st in price, according to new statistics published Monday.

The figures reveal that U.S. companies will need to invest heavily in new high-speed cables and cut prices for customers if they are to deliver on promises to provide fast and easy movies, music and other media applications through broadband.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — which represents the world's 30 richest nations — said that the average subscription price for broadband was $53.06 in the U.S. but just $31.18 in Finland, $32.22 in Germany and $33.34 in Britain.

But the high U.S. prices were not reflected in fast speeds, the report said. It said the average advertised broadband download speed, in megabits per second, was 8.86 — well below the OECD average of 13.7Mbit/s, and far behind South Korea at 43.3 Mbit/s, France at 44.1 Mbit/s and Japan at 93.69 Mbit/s.

When calculated as the average price per Mbit/s of connectivity, the U.S. is at $2.83, again far above its rivals. Japan, by contrast, is just $0.13, France is $0.33, Sweden is $0.35 and Korea is at $0.38.

The OECD said that, over the past year, the number of broadband subscribers in the OECD increased 24% to 221 million from 178 million. The U.S. is the largest broadband market, with 66.2 million subscribers — representing 30% of all OECD broadband connections. However, the average number of subscribers is just 22.1 per 100 inhabitants — just above the 18.8 OECD average but well below such top performing nations as Denmark (34.3) and the Netherlands (33.5).

The figures come just days after the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation to develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services available to households and businesses across the nation.