Broadband: Hot or not?

As I write this, I’m downloading 300 MB of developer tools updates at about 350 KB/sec. You don’t have to tell me I’m spoiled — having had to suffer AOL dial-up while I was away for a week, I quickly realized that the internet is not terribly compelling when sucked through a straw.

So, how is broadband doing?

In U.S. households, only about 15% pay for broadband even though about 70% could, according to The New York Times. They believe the main issue blocking mainstream adoption is price, and I couldn’t agree more — $40-$50 is just too expensive for your average consumer to justify. (Not surprisingly given the recession, broadband growth slowed in the 1st half of 2002 compared to the 2nd half of 2001, according to the FCC. Who wants to bet on positively lethargic growth during the 2nd half of 2002?)

The UK has historically had it even worse than the U.S., but 2002 was a banner year for “Broadband Britain”. According to ZDNet, broadband growth in the UK exploded this year, rising from about 300,000 subscribers a year ago to around 1.3 million today as subscription fees plunged to near-U.S. levels.

Elsewhere in the world, broadband penetration routinely tops 50%. According to Wired News, 70% of South Korean households have broadband. But as they note…

Such broadband vitality didn’t come out of nowhere. The Korean government sank over $1.5 billion into helping create the world’s most advanced telecommunications network, according to a report from Britain’s Brunel University. The government also offered a range of “soft loans” — very low-interest loans — to operators ready to build out infrastructure. As a result, over 90 percent of South Koreans can access a broadband connection because they live within four kilometers (about 2.5 miles) of a broadband-enabled local telephone exchange.

It’s interesting that the way people get their broadband differs wildly. In South Korea, 80% of subscribers use DSL and 20% use cable modems. In the U.S., about twice as many households get their broadband via cable modem as via DSL according to the research firm Yankee Group. | New York Times: Price Is Limiting Demand for Broadband | MacCentral: FCC says broadband growth slowed in US | Wired News: Korean housewives want speedy net | ZDNet: A great year for Broadband Britain?