Debunking the Broadband Gap

Today we learn, via Saul Hansell at Bits Blog, that the US isn’t as far behind the Rest of the World with broadband as was previously thought:

Even without any change in government policies, Internet speeds in the United States are getting faster. Verizon is wiring half its territory with its FiOS service, which strings fiber optic cable to people’s homes. FiOS now offers 50 Mbps service and has the capacity to offer much faster speeds. As of the end of 2008, 4.1 million homes in the United States had fiber service, which puts the United States right behind Japan, which has brought fiber directly to 8.2 million homes, according to the Fiber to the Home Council. Much of what is called fiber broadband in Korea, Sweden and until recently Japan, only brings the fiber to the basement of apartment buildings or street-corner switch boxes.

Actual download speeds are more important that raw signaling rates: The United States has an average speed of 5.2 Mbps, Japan is 16.7 Mbps, Sweden was 8.8 Mbps, and Korea averaged 7.2 Mbps. There’s a gap alright, but it’s not nearly as large as we’ve been lead to believe.

In fact, the gap is entirely consistent with population density and the extent of government subsidies.

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