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The Global Broadband Spectrum

Wealthy countries race to bring faster connections to more people, while the rest of the world struggles to get up to speed.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently announced a 10-year, $15.5 billion plan to improve and expand the country’s broadband infrastructure (see “America’s Broadband Dilemma”). The initiative is largely in response to data showing that the United States lags behind nations like South Korea, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries, which–as this graph shows–have significantly faster connections and higher rates of broadband penetration. (The x-axis shows the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants; the y-axis shows speeds in megabits per second.) Korea is the global pacesetter: the latest data from Ookla, a firm that tests Internet connections, shows a blisteringly fast average residential download speed of over 30 megabits per second, three times the typical speeds in the United States. But although U.S. speeds may be sluggish, broadband is at least within financial reach of most Americans, with the average subscription costing less than half of 1 percent of per capita income. The real broadband gap isn’t between the U.S. and Korea but, rather, between rich countries and developing countries such as India, Indonesia, and Egypt, where the cost is 6 to 16 percent of income, and where there’s less than one subscription for every 100 people.

Information graphic by Tommy McCall, Interactive by Alastair Halliday

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