Broadband speeds in the United States have been the subject of debate for some time now, and yesterday a new study confirmed what many had already suspected – that the US is still playing catch-up with the rest of the world.
Okay so that’s not strictly true – it is possible to get super-fast connections in the US of course, but the problem is the cost of that service, which is far more expensive here than in most other countries. In New York, consumers can sign up for a lightening fast, 500Mbps connection that’s 58 times faster than the national average, but doing so will cost an eye-watering $300 a month, says the New American Foundation in its Cost of Connectivity report. Compare this to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where the same connection can be had for just $86 a month and it’s clear enough that Americans are being shafted when it comes to the cost of their internet connections.
Unfortunately for US consumers, it’s not just super-fast connections that they pay considerably more for, as the discrepancy continues all the way down the bandwidth ladder. Even worse, the trend is true for both wireless and wired services, as the researchers note in their report:
“In larger US cities, we continue to observe higher prices for slower speeds… In the US for example, the best deal for a 150Mbps home broadband connection from cable and phone companies is $130/month, offered by Verizon FiOS in limited parts of New York City. By contrast, the international cities we surveyed offer comparable speeds for $77 or less per month, with most coming in at about $50/month. When it comes to mobile broadband, the cheapest price for around 2GB of data in the US ($30/month from T-Mobile) is twice as much as what users in London pay ($15/month from T-Mobile). It costs more to purchase 2GB of data in a US city than it does in any of the cities surveyed in Europe.”
Even at 14 pages, the rest of the report is worth a read as it highlights many other inequities faced by US consumers. For example, some readers might remember Verizon offering 500Mbps for $300 a month – well, in cities like Bristol, Va., and Chattanooga, Tenn., consumers can get twice as much speed (1Gbps or 1,000Mbps) for just $319 and $70 a month, respectively, thanks to their public fiber optic networks.
The New America Foundation concludes that while “many American consumers take high prices and slow speeds to be a given… our data demonstrates that it is possible to have faster, more affordable connectivity in cities of comparable density and size.” According to the Foundation, the key is to have more competition – in those parts of the country where three or more providers operate, prices are generally far cheaper than those where only one or two providers rule the roost.
As for international comparisons, there are so many other factors to take into account that these can be dicey. Even so, few will argue that affordability, rather than absolute speeds, should be the most pressing concerns for US broadband providers right now.