Broadband lessons from Europe and Asia

The New York Times is running a report “looking at the lessons for the United States from broadband deployment in other countries.” The series started when they looked at “why theirs is faster”, yesterday it was “why theirs is cheaper” and today they are looking at fiber.

The articles are quick and good. The comments are great too. Here’s a quick synopsis…

I’m going to start with today’s article because I like it best. The question is – Why does the rest of the world have more fiber than the US. Quoting from the article,

The short answer is that broadband deployment in those countries was spurred by a combination of heavy government involvement, subsidies and lower corporate profits that may be tough for the economic and political system in the United States to accept. Those countries have also tried to encourage demand for broadband by paying schools, hospitals and other institutions to use high-speed Internet services.

They go on to detail the role the government has had in Europe and Japan. Then they talk more specifically about what could be done in the US – use the stimulus money to reach rural areas, work to promote broadband with consumers, use the Universal Service Funds for broadband and be prepared to spend more taxpayer money on broadband in those areas where you can’t create a business case to attract commercial providers.

So faster… the first reason they give for faster speeds in many counties is urban density and DSL. In short Europe tends to have a high population density and DSL is faster when the connections are shorter.

Also European providers exaggerate their speeds. (The article was kinder with how they phrased that.)

American providers are catching up with Verizon’s FiOS service, AT&T’s U-Verse service, and the promise of Docsis, however the prices are rising as fast as the broadband speeds.

So cheaper… the first reason again is population density. It’s cheaper to build out to urban areas than suburban or rural areas.

Next, there’s competition. In big countries, the phone companies have been forced to open up their infrastructure to other Internet providers. The US started down that road but kind of gave it up in 2003 because providers were having a tough time making money. So competition has turned into phone versus cable.

The downside of forcing a company to share infrastructure is that it’s not a big motivator for upgrading infrastructure.

This entry was posted in FTTH, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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