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U.S. lags behind in broadband infrastructure

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Snapshot for April 23, 2008.

U.S. lags behind in broadband infrastructure

by John Irons and Ian Townson

The United States is one the few industrialized nations that has not yet implemented a comprehensive policy to promote broadband internet access. Nations that have prioritized broadband infrastructure have already seen improvements. For example, Denmark improved broadband penetration between 2005 and 2007 from 25 to 34.3 connections per 100 inhabitants, while the United States has only improved from 16.8 to 22.1 (See chart). The United States currently ranks 15th of the 30 developed countries in overall penetration as measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).1

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Broadband penetration per 100 inhabitants

Expanding broadband infrastructure in the United States would not simply improve the speed of connections for entertainment purposes, but it will also bring a wealth of knowledge to more citizens in more areas. With greater reach, the United States could see improvements in education, health care, and first-responder capabilities as communications become faster, more efficient, and more effective.

The United States has also fallen behind other countries in the deployment of new broadband technologies. For example, over 35% of Japan’s internet connections are fiber optic, whereas only 3% of U.S. connections are fiber optic.

Countries like Japan and South Korea that have made broadband a national priority are already experiencing the perks of their fiber optic expansion. Average broadband download speeds are hitting 61-megabits per second in Japan, while the average in the United States is only 1.9-megabits per second.2 Even the “fast” connection in the United States of 5-megabits per second requires 15 minutes to download a 4.5 GB movie file, while the average connection in Japan needs just 1.25 minutes.3


1. OECD Broadband Statistics to June 2007.,3343,en_2649_34225_39574076_1_1_1_1,00.html

2. Fastest Internet Download Times: Not in the U.S.

3. Japan’s Internet access speed 30 times faster than connections in U.S.

See related work on Public Investment

See more work by Ian Townson