Like many urban myths, we have come to believe that US is a broadband laggard. Often pundits hold up the shining examples of South Korea and Japan as countries that are miles ahead of the US. Media is quick to point out that even puny Singapore and Belgium are ahead of US in terms of broadband penetration. I know, I have often said so, and have been wrong.
Broadband penetration is a wrong metric to look at when it comes to evaluation US and broadband. I think the right yardstick to evaluate US is the actual number of broadband users – folks who pay for their broadband every month. US, at the end of 2004 had nearly 34 million broadband connections – that’s more than any other country on the planet.
Surely, in broadband penetration – broadband lines per 100 users -US is falling behind in the race, but then it’s a much large country than say South Korea or Japan, or Singapore – with nearly 250 million residents. It’s easy to wire a country the size of say Florida, but it’s darn hard to wire-up a continent. (US ranks at #11 in broadband penetration.)
Bruce Leichtman, principal at Leichtman Research Group spends most of his time pouring over the broadband data, and he called to remind me that broadband adoption in US is second only to DVD when it comes to new technology adoption. “Comparing us to rest of the world is just crazy,” he says, and reminds us “that there are 25% American households who don’t have computers.” If you took at the people who have computers, in his estimates the US penetration is shade over 40%.
The thing about urban myths is that they are just that a myth – sure we may not have as much bandwidth as South Korea, online gaming parlors are not part of our lives, but never say US is a broadband laggard.