U.S. Broadband Connectivity: Higher Prices, Lower Speeds
If you live in a U.S. city, chances are your Internet connection is significantly slower and more expensive than in a major city in Europe or Asia. If you’re looking for an affordable, fast broadband connection in America, you’re out of luck if you don’t live in the few cities that have Google Fiber or a municipal high-speed network.
That’s the conclusion reached in a new report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, which compared speed and prices for Internet connections across world cities like New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Paris and London. And the data doesn’t paint a rosy picture for U.S. consumers.
The researchers ranked cities according to various criteria and U.S. cities don’t fare very well across the board.
In the triple-play rankings by price, in which cities are ranked according to the cheapest bundle of Internet broadband, TV and phone, the first U.S. city comes in 32nd. In the “best bang for your buck” chart, which ranks cities based on the best speed available for $35, the first U.S. city, New York, barely makes the Top 10.
“Many American consumers take high prices and slow speeds to be a given, but our data demonstrates that it is possible to have faster, more affordable connectivity in cities of comparable density and size,” the report concludes. “To an extent, the data speaks for itself: whether consumers are interested in triple-play packages or mobile broadband plans, they pay more money for lower speeds in the United States.”
Moreover, the new study notes that compared to last year’s data, international providers have lowered costs and increased speeds, while in the U.S., “prices and speeds have stayed about the same,” the study says.
The findings are bad news for American consumers, but they certainly don’t reveal anything new.
In August, a Pew Research study found that one in five Americans don’t have access to broadband, and tech policy experts like Susan Crawford have been denouncing the poor state of Internet connectivity in the U.S. for years.
For example, in Paris, $35 a month can get you 28 mbps in Internet speed, cable and telephone. In New York, Time Warner Cable, which has a virtual monopoly in the city, offers 30 mbps and basic TV for $80 a month. And in Seoul, one gigabit per second of fiber costs $32 a month.
There are a few U.S. cities that stand out, but their situations are exceptional. Kansas City has a one-gigabit fiber network thanks to the deep pockets of Google. Then there are Chattanooga, Tenn., Lafayette, La., Bristol, Va., and a few other community-owned networks which match Google Fiber’s download speeds, but have higher prices.
There are many reasons why American cities lag compared to those in other countries, but the study makes an important observation: In cities with three competitive service providers, prices and speeds are better.
That scenario is very hard to find in the U.S. According to the 2010 National Broadband Plan, only 9% of Americans can choose from three competitive broadband providers, while the majority have only one or two choices at best. Even in most neighborhoods in New York, a financial capital of the world and a growing hub for tech companies, Time Warner Cable is the only provider, and Verizon FiOS, despite its promises, isn’t a serious competitor.
The Open Technology Institute will release a full report in November but, in the meantime, you can read the study here.
Image: Mashable composite. Image: Wikimedia Commons