Broadband penetration still lags in U.S.

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The United States still lags behind several developed countries in broadband penetration despite experiencing solid growth over the past year, according to new data released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The OECD data, which were collected between June 2008 and June 2009, show that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband penetration with 26.7 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. The Netherlands ranks first in the world in broadband penetration with 38.1 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants while Denmark ranks a close second with 37 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, according to the OECD. Additionally, America's neighbor to the north, Canada, ranks10th in the world with 29.7 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

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The United States has experienced steady growth in broadband penetration over the last year, as total broadband penetration per 100 inhabitants grew by 2.15% from June 2008 to June 2009. But while this growth rate was ahead of the OECD average of 1.72%, it still lagged behind Canada, which saw broadband penetration grow by 2.68% over the same period.

The United States was also one of only three countries that the OECD measured that had more broadband users subscribe to cable services than to DSL services. Overall, the United States has 13.8 cable subscribers per 100 inhabitants versus 10.3 DSL subscribers per 100 inhabitants. The average for all countries measured by the OECD is 6.6 cable subscribers per 100 inhabitants and 13.7 DSL subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

The new OECD data did not provide any updates on average broadband speeds around the world. The last available data on global broadband speeds, dated back to September 2008, showed that the United States had an average advertised broadband speed of 9.6Mbps, which ranked in the bottom half of countries measured by the OECD. While the United States had a higher average advertised speed than Canada, it lagged behind nations such as Japan, Korea, France, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, all of which had average advertised speeds of 10Mbps or higher.

The Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission have made improving American broadband penetration a key goal over the next few years. Specifically, the FCC is slated to present a national broadband plan to Congress in February 2010. The plan was commissioned to provide the government with a blueprint for building out broadband infrastructure in regions of the United States that currently lack access to quality, affordable broadband services. The government currently defines broadband as any service that provides "two-way data transmission of at least 768Kbps downstream and at least 200Kbps upstream to end users."

This story, "Broadband penetration still lags in U.S." was originally published by Network World.

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