A new study from the New America Foundation suggests that the United States is lagging in the broadband speed race. The study compared high-speed Internet service in major cities around the world, and found that high-speed broadband service was dramatically more expensive and slower in the United States than in leading countries outside the United States. The authors blame these disappointing results on bad public policy.
International telecommunications comparisons are difficult, because broadband service is a complex, non-homogenous product. Broadband services can offer different speeds, data caps, prices, and reliability guarantees. Typical speeds may be much lower than average speeds, and some companies offer customers substantial discounts over their standard prices. And things get even more complicated when Internet access is bundled with telephone and television services.
High prices, low speeds
The New America Foundation used three different methods to try to cut through the clutter and come up with fair comparisons. First, they looked at the cost of basic "triple play" bundles—phone, video, and Internet—in various countries around the world. They attempted to make the packages comparable by choosing the cheapest service in each category: only basic television service and the slowest available Internet speeds. They then ranked 57 different cities based on the price of this basic triple-play package.
The results didn’t look good for the United States. The most expensive city surveyed was New York, where Verizon charges $154.98 for the cheapest fiber triple-play package. All the American cities considered were in the bottom half of the ranking. AT&T offered the cheapest triple play package: $65.60 in Lafayette, LA.
In contrast, Riga, Seoul, and Paris all offered triple-play packages for less than $40 per month. London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Hong Kong all had triple play packages available for under $50.