Global Broadband and the US: Lies, damn lies, and statistics
by Philomorph - 2/7/08 8:23 AM
Dear Buzz Crew;
This rant is not directed just at you, but at everyone in the tech media that complains about the US being behind the rest of the world in broadband. Most complaints about this rely on incomplete data, referring to stats like the percent of people with broadband, or the availability, speed, etc, of one or two countries without looking at all the important factors. So, to hopefully clear up some of the FUD, here are the bits I think should be considered in this discussion. The numbers are from multiple sources, all gathered over the last 6 months. Sorry the following chart is hard to read, but I couldnt figure out how to make tabs and formatting work in the forum.
Country Pop (Millions) Pop Density/km^2 % houses w/net Total # w/broadband (Millions) %pop w/broadband
Monaco - 0.032 23000 - 61% - 0.012 - 38%
South Korea 49 484 - 71% - 14.5 - 30%
Iceland - 0.3 3 - 85% - 0.09 - 30%
Hong Kong 7 6400 - 70% - 1.9 - 27%
Canada 33 - 3.3 - 66% - 8 - 24%
USA 300 32 - 71% - 66 - 22%
China 1322 137 - 16% - 63 - 5%
So what does all this tell us? The tiny nation of Monaco has the highest percentage of broadband adopters, beating the US 38% to 22%. However, they also have a tiny population of 32,000 people, crammed into a space less than one square mile! Its hardly a big achievement to wire 12,000 people. In second place are Iceland and South Korea, tied at 30%. But Iceland only has 300k people, so again, wiring 90,000 people isnt that big a deal in my opinion. Plus, their average advertised speed is half that of the US.
Now South Korea is a different story. They have 49 million people, and are tied with the US in percentage of homes that have internet access. Over 14 million people with broadband is an achievement, and their speed is remarkable. However, they have a population density 15 times higher than the US! That means a lot more people living in cities and apartment blocks, making the wiring process much easier.
The country closest to our density is China, which is still four times higher, and they only have a broadband penetration of 5%.
The one country I think we should really be applauding is Canada. They have a tenth as many people, with a tenth the density, making their distribution similar to ours. However, with a lower percentage of homes having internet access, they still beat us in the percent of those with broadband.
I know you cant read this whole email on the air, but I think you should take a stand against the common wisdom and summarize the facts for your audience.
The US has 66 MILLION broadband users, more than any other country in the world and they are spread out over more land than the top four countries combined. The next closest country, South Korea, has less than a quarter as many broadband subscribers, and they are crammed into 1/15th the area, making wiring much easier.
Im not saying the US shouldnt be working to improve, but geeze, lay off a bit. These comparisons to other countries seem specious to me.