U.N.: Broadband Internet Access Booming in Richest Nations
By Ronald Roach
Broadband technology offering fast and cheap access to the Internet is booming in richer countries but is slowly spreading in the developing world, according to a United Nations report issued last month. The report, from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), notes that the spread of broadband was lagging in many European states where telecommunications lines are still controlled by former state monopoly providers. Nevertheless, developing countries lag far behind the wealthiest nations in Europe, the Americas and Asia. One successful project in a developing country was found in India where some 65,000 km (40,400 miles) of cable along the extensive rural rail network has been set up for remote communities, according to the ITU.
“Broadband is arriving at a time when the revolutionary potential of the Internet has still to be fully tapped,” says Tim Kelly, who heads the ITU’s Strategy and Policy Unit.
Evidence from around the globe indicated that monthly spending on telecommunications services rose when broadband was easily available, the report said. The number of subscribers to broadband technology, the third generation since early Internet use through normal telephone lines gave way to higher-speed or ISDN lines, grew 72 percent last year and now totals 62 million, it said.
By far the greatest broadband penetration is in South Korea, where more than 20 percent of the population — which constitutes 94 percent of the country’s 10.8 million Internet subscribers — are serviced through broadband technology.
Hong Kong is next with 15 percent of the population using broadband, 43 percent of the 2.4 million Internet users, and Canada third with just over 11 percent, exactly half the 5.6 million people who have signed up for online services.
In the United States, the ITU said, some 7 percent of the population, nearly 20 million of the 70 million Internet subscribers, are now on broadband — a penetration level just below that of Japan.
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