Today New America Foundation has published a report "The Cost of Connectivity 2013: A comparison of high-speed Internet prices in 24 cities around the world"

It has been covered by media, mostly in a tone that US is lagging behind and lacking choices (emphasis mine):

"Americans pay so much because they don't have a choice," says Susan Crawford, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama on science, technology and innovation policy.

Although there are several national companies, local markets tend to be dominated by just one or two main providers.

"We deregulated high-speed internet access 10 years ago and since then we've seen enormous consolidation and monopolies, so left to their own devices, companies that supply internet access will charge high prices, because they face neither competition nor oversight."

Two-thirds get their broadband via their television cables, she says, because the DSL (digital subscriber line) service provided by phone companies over copper lines can't compete with cable speeds, while wireless and satellite services are subject to low usage caps.

source: BBC News "Why is broadband more expensive in the US?"

On the other hand there has been editorial in NYT by Verizon's CEO Lowell C. McAdam, titled "How the U.S. Got Broadband Right" stating quite the opposite (emphasis mine):

Contrast this with the European Union, where innovation and investment in advanced networks have stagnated under an onerous regulatory regime that limits investment and innovation, and where today only about 2 percent of households have access to broadband networks with 100-megabit-plus speeds. “Once, Europe led the world in wireless communication: now we have fallen behind,” Neelie Kroes, the European Union official responsible for broadband policy, said in a speech in January. “Europe needs to regain that lead.”

[...]

Since 1996, as America encouraged the growth of its broadband industry, European regulators have adopted policies that generally limited network infrastructure deployment to a single facility in a given country or region. Other companies were allowed to “resell” broadband services to consumers, but only if they used the same infrastructure. This “retail” competition resulted in prices that may have covered the costs of operations but left little capital or other incentive for companies to invest in improving these networks. In other words, a decade ago the European broadband market may have looked healthy from the standpoint of consumer pricing, but after 10 years of underinvestment, European households (only half of which have access to networks capable of speeds of even 30 megabits) have far fewer broadband options and innovations than their American counterparts.

So what's the hard data? How does state of broadband in US and EU compare?

  • Do you compare big European cities against big US cities or do you compare the average household in the US vs Europe? – Christian Oct 29 '13 at 1:33
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    @Christian Both comparisons are relevant and would be part of a good answer. But if you only have one, that's a good start. – user5582 Oct 29 '13 at 3:10
  • @Christian: I'm not sure about US, but in Europe over 80% of population lives in large cities. – vartec Oct 29 '13 at 9:47
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    Answers should be careful to address the differing definitions of broadband. It could be that 100 MBit is cheaper in the EU but 5 MBit is cheaper in the US. Perhaps some parts of the EU are ahead and others are behind, so only considering averages may not give a good picture. – gerrit Oct 29 '13 at 11:22
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    Price is one point, I think it's pretty much proven that it's more expensive in US. What I doubt it the claims that high-speed broadband is more proliferated in US than in EU. OTOH, reading McAdam's text well, kind of seems like he's comparing apples and oranges. On one side he takes number of Americans who live in areas where they could have broadband and compares that with number of Europeans who actually do have broadband. – vartec Oct 29 '13 at 11:27
up vote 5 down vote accepted

There is no contradiction between the propositions

  • Typical broadband prices for the same level of service tend to be lower in the European Union than the United States

  • The US has faster broadband networks (and 4G-LTE mobile) covering a higher proportion of the population than the European Union

The statement "only about 2 percent of households [in the EU] have access to broadband networks with 100-megabit-plus speeds" is wrong, or at least badly worded. The figure of 2% is for subscriptions to 100Mbit/s services rather than availability of such services. The European Commission's Digital Agenda Scorecard says there are "about 2% of European homes subscribing to at least 100Mbps". It also shows (Figure 16) that Docsis 3.0 cable broadband has a coverage of 39.4% and Fibre-To-The-Premises coverage of 12.2%. In the UK, the Virgin Media cable broadband network covers almost half the country (more than 2% of the EU on its own and there are similar networks elsewhere) offering its customers a choice of 30, 60 and 100Mbit/s at different prices, and most choose the cheapest; prices at the lower end are kept down by competing ISPs (especially BT, Sky and TalkTalk) offering VDSL FTTC services at speeds of up to 40 or 80 Mbit/s. But even if this point was misspoken, it does do not detract from the US still having a faster network covering covering a higher proportion of the population (at a higher price).

  • "US still having a faster network covering covering a higher proportion of the population". Can you reference that? – vartec Oct 31 '13 at 0:22
  • @vartec: Figure 34 of the Ofcom Infrastrucutre Report 2013 says there is 97% cable broadband coverage in the US compared with lower figures in large EU countries even if FTTP was added in. – Henry Oct 31 '13 at 16:06
  • So the assumption is that if it's a cable, then it offers 30Mbps+ access? – vartec Oct 31 '13 at 16:36
  • @vartec If it uses Docsis 3.0 then yes. Old analogue cable systems will not come anywhere near this – Henry Oct 31 '13 at 16:41

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