Who's winning the broadband sweepstakes?

Who pays the least for the fastest downloads? Who does the most with the least GDP? What country's computers harbor the most bot infestations?

By Andrew Leonard
November 5, 2007 9:20PM (UTC)
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Broadband geeks should waste no time in diving into the abundance of Excel spreadsheets provided by the OECD Broadband Portal. Two weeks ago, in "America's Broadband Shame," How the World Works reported that the United States had fallen to 15th place in the world, as measured by number of broadband subscribers per capita. But considerably more detail concerning the broadband circumstances of the 30 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is now available.

The top performer in per capita broadband penetration is Denmark, with 34.3 subscribers per 100 population. The U.S. has only 22.1. True, the U.S. is a much bigger, more spread out country. If you account for size, the U.S. does about the same as other big countries, notably, Australia and Canada.


A more interesting comparison, however, is to rank countries by their gross domestic product per capita and see how well they're doing. Not surprisingly, the top 10 broadband countries are mostly European nations with high per capita GDPs. The one standout is Korea, whose GDP per capita is $23,581, which is considerably lower than the GDPs of the three countries that have higher broadband penetration rates than it, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, all of which boast a per capita GDP greater than $36,000. The U.S. comes off particularly badly under these criteria. It boasts the third highest GDP per capita of all 30 OECD nations, at $43,801, but still is only middle of the pack in penetration.

Finland, Germany and Switzerland pay the least for their broadband; U.S. citizens pay the 10th highest rates.

Japan, by far, boasts the fastest download speeds, an incredible 93 megabits per second. Second and third are France and Korea, hovering around 44 megabits per second. The U.S. languishes way down the list at a paltry 8.8 megabits per second.


The worst performers in nearly every category are Mexico and Turkey.

Taking all things into consideration, Korea has the most reason to brag. Fourth highest broadband penetration numbers in the world, third fastest download speeds, 13th cheapest price, and all in the context of a lower GDP per capita than any of its main rivals.

Fun stat of the day: The OECD even provides numbers for the percentage of "bot-infested" computers per 100 broadband subscribers. Poland is the big winner here, with 6.8 per 100 broadband subscribers owning computers riddled with potential Ron Paul-supporting malware. The U.S. is doing reasonably well in this category, hanging in at 18th place, with only 1.5 per 100 broadband-connected computers infected.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works