OECD: U.S. Broadband Is Big But It Needs to Be Better

The U.S. is still the largest broadband market when it comes to the 30 nations that make up the OECD, according to data released late last week by the organization. We had 81.1 million connections as of the end of 2009 — about 29 percent of the total connections among OECD countries. And this despite the fact that the U.S. only ranks 15th when it comes to the score for broadband penetration (at 26.4 connections per 100 inhabitants, to be exact).

That dominance has enabled the U.S. to be a top market for launching new broadband-based services as innovative companies can use them to form and subsequently gain widespread adoption. It’s one of the reasons that success stories like Twitter and Facebook were built here. But as the world transitions to a more interactive and video-based web, it’s not enough to have a huge number of connections — we need high-quality connections.

But better broadband is hard to see in the OECD numbers. In June 2008 just 3 percent of U.S. broadband connections were fiber to the home, and by of the end of 2009, only 5 percent were (consisting of 1.3 FTTH connections per 100 inhabitants). This number still lags broadband powerhouses like Japan (13.5 connections per 100 inhabitants and about 54 percent of connections) and Korea (16.4 FTTH connections per 100 inhabitants and about 49 percent of connections), plus we could see it slip further given how Verizon (s vz) has put a halt to future FTTH deployments. More important, 18 months ago just 45 percent of Japan’s connections were fiber while 39 percent of Korea’s were, so they’re still adding FTTH at a much faster rate than the U.S.

And while folks can debate the value of fiber when compared to cable broadband that uses DOCSIS 3.0 technology, the bottom line is that soon it won’t be enough to have a lot of broadband subscribers if they’re not on faster and fatter pipes. Tomorrow’s web innovations are going to require robust broadband, and our ISPs need to deliver it. For more OECD data, please visit the organization’s broadband portal.

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