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An Update on International Universal Broadband Goals

Published:  March 25, 2011

Last week marked the first anniversary of the National Broadband Plan’s release. The press surrounding the Planniversary included plenty of criticisms that the plan is moving too slow, even at dial-up speed. One criticism we offered at the Plan’s release is that the recommended universalization goals are underwhelming. This critique remains valid today.

One year ago we compared broadband goals from around the world and found the proposed goals for the United States to be woefully lackluster. While the U.S. works towards a universal target of four megabits per second (Mbps) downloads and one Mbps uploads by 2020, many countries are not waiting a decade for universal broadband. Here is a selection of universalization goals for European Union countries:

Country
Speed
Year
Bulgaria
1 Mbps
2013
Cyprus
2 Mbps
2013
Finland
1 Mbps
2010
Ireland
1.2 Mbps
2010
Italy
2 Mbps
2012
Romania
1 Mbps
2015
Spain
1 Mbps
2011
UK
2 Mbps
2015

From: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/broadband/docs/annex_2.pdf

While these universalization targets are slower than the four Mbps suggested in the National Broadband Plan, the target dates for completion are several years ahead of the United States, leaving the U.S. behind in the quest for universal broadband

The National Broadband Plan also offers a target of 100 Mbps downloads for 100 million homes by 2020, an estimated 75% of the country.[1] Once again, this goal is under whelming when compared to those of other countries:

Country
Speed
Year
Denmark
100 Mbps (100%)
2020
Germany
50 Mbps (75%)
2014
Luxembourg
100 Mbps (100%)
2015
Spain
50 Mbps (100%)
2015
Sweden
100 Mbps (90%)
2020

From: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/broadband/docs/annex_2.pdf

The United States is not a broadband leader - it ranks 14th in the latest OECD data for broadband penetration. Recently released data visualization tools from Measurement Lab show that the United States has middle-of-the-road broadband connection speeds:

Coupled with our findings that broadband in the United States is more expensive than in other developing nations, we need a bolder vision than hoping for change a decade down the road. A continuing dilemma with the National Broadband Plan is not only implementation speed, the bar set by policy is not high enough to move the United States into the position of a worldwide broadband leader.


[1] According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau projections, the population is expected to be 341,387,000 in 2020. Persons per household estimate is based on 2000 census. See http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/files/nation/summary/np2008-t1.xlsandhttp://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html.

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