back to article US broadband speeds 15 years behind South Korea

You can't escape ads on US TV each day from Comcast, AT&T, Sprint or some other provider crowing about how they are making their networks faster for TV, internet and phone. Fast is relative, though, and it seems broadband is only inching forward in the US, with the country calculated to be 15 years behind speed leader South …


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  1. Nigel Whitfield.

    Density matters

    Comparisons with broadband in other countries are always tricky - it's not just a case of "our blasted telcos won't invest." Housing density can have a significant effect too - simply put, if most of your residents live in high rise, high density units, it's a lot easier to stick a single fibre in to one building and serve hundreds than it is to put one into every house on a street to serve the same number.

    In Seoul, in 1970 just 4% of housing was in apartments, rather than houses; by 2006 that had grown to 53%. That's a massive increase, and will make it much easier to provide high speed access to more residents.

    I suspect that you'll find that in many countries where there's a high proportion of people with very fast access, there's also a much higher housing density than in the US and UK.

  2. Efros
    Paris Hilton


    This side of the pond have insufficient competition in most areas to make them even in the slightest bit aware of customer service. Infrastructure investment or rather the lack of it will one day bring the USA to its knees. Too many decisions are made on the basis of how much tax payers will like it or will it cause me to lose the next election, little or no investment in the future in terms of infrastructure repair or indeed new building goes on. When it is undertaken the participants think Christmas has arrived early. The Big Dig in Boston was one of the largest investments in the US in the last 100 years, massive overruns and massive payouts to crooks of all persuasions, those with mob connections and those with Wall Street ones, who are the most deadly. So the lack of quality Broadband is hardly surprising, they still advertise dialup on TV FFS!

    Paris cos she knows all about infrastructures and where to put them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well - that speed is what I get too.. Shouldn't the article be the whole world apart from the Far East lag behind?

  4. TheOtherMe

    Luxury I say!

    You should try living down under. We dream of speeds approaching the lower end of the US figures. And our beloved leaders want to filter the slow trickle we get - sheesh!

  5. Adam Foxton

    Internet speeds in America.

    icon says it all, really...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Great, O'Bama is going to start another top-down government program to increase broadband speed for no apparent reason. Better idea: force the ISPs to use cost-plus pricing, billing per GB. The more you download, the more money they make. Problem solved! They will be doing everything they can to get you to download as much as possible, and you the end user pay what you should.

    Next step: break up Comcast and Verizon on anti-trust grounds. You pipe should not be your ISP. You should be able to select Comcast or Verizon to get you to the C/O, then pick your ISP a-la-cart. Pick your VOIP provider a-la-cart as well.

    Then we would have *real* competition. Each company would be bending over backwards to get you to stay with them. You'd see low prices, great customer service.. imagine that! A market where competition is rewarded, and consumers win out. Oh yeah, and while you are at it, end contracts and equipment leasing.

    You pick the combo:

    Any hardware -> any pipe -> any ISP -> any telephony provider.

  7. shawnfromnh

    This article is right on the money

    5.1 mbs, that would be nice. The best residentially speed here in N.H. USA is 1.5mbs and you might get downloads speeds up to 180K/sec max and that's at night. It also costs $50 a month for that unless you get TV and then it drops down to $40. Now if you get the Commercial Package for businesses you're looking at I believe 6 mbs but that'll run you around $500 a month and I don't know one person that could ever afford that for a home.

    You can get faster than 1.5mbs but you have to use sprint "telephone company" and you are restricted to I believe 4 GB per month of usage then a fee per GB is added on to the $40 a month they charge. Basically if you download 1 DVD movie from a site that sells online movies "legally" you have already used up you're bandwidth.

    What the US government needs to do is to tell companies that if you are offering internet that they need to give more speed and not restrict bandwidth like sprint does. It's almost 2010 and networks should be able to handle 50 GB of downloads a month per household minimum if they are going to be in the broadband business. They also need to stop cable companies from pushing towns into contracts with exclusivity clauses like my town. We've had cable internet for over 10 years and we pay more than most towns with far less speed. I think we've paid them enough for setting up their infrastructure which was the original reason they gave for the exclusive rights for cable internet and it's time for the monopoly practices and substandard service at high prices to end.

  8. JB

    Total fail

    When I came to California to live 2 years ago I left a 20 Mbps provider and now enjoy a 'blistering' (AT&T's word, not mine) 1.5Mbps connection and pay about the same for it. It's amazing just how much you miss the faster speeds, and how frustrating the slower ones are. Advantages are that you do get the full speed 24/7, and the full speed using newsgroups, but that's about it.

    Come on, surely the most technology dependent country in the world can do better than this? Why are sods like Comcast dragging their feet?

  9. Reverend Brown

    Slow indeed.

    Last year I enjoyed 15/15mbit.... moved a mere ten miles and have been downgraded to an average of 5mbit. Decent speeds are still under heavy construction around these (civilized and heavily populated) parts.

  10. Jesse Dorland

    Wouldn't bet on it

    I am in Canada right now, and situation on the south of our border is about the same. This means something like this.

    Major ISP provider in Canada are charging us by Megabyte, or Gigabytes. There used to be a options so called "unlimited", but that is gone. To make matter worst internet providers are reducing the speed of certain applications, and at the same time denying internet access to file sharing software -- say torrent, or emule, and even youtube.

    Amazingly Rogers even charges "system access fees" this used to be for only "cell phone", but now it's for everything -- Internet, cable, homephone, and of course cell phones..

    Long story short, my neighbors will same the same policy implemented in all of their states in the name of "economic recovery".

  11. George Marian

    Won't someone please think of the children?!?

    Seriously, though the U.S. will always lag behind, due to it's large expance, it's a bit sad for our broadband options to be so sorry. Maybe it's worth it if it reduces our risk of becoming a country Internet gaming addicts? Mine's the one with the slingshot in the pocket.

  12. Moss Icely Spaceport

    You should try Australian fraudband speeds

    A man in a pony and trap can deliver a message faster...

  13. Sarah Baucom

    We were supposed to have 45Mbps 9 years ago

    I'm stuck at 7Mbps/384kbps

  14. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Nationalized broadband failure early on

    Back during the final years of the dot-com boom, if I recall correctly, Sprint invested a shytload of money in their ION service somewhere in the southwest US. It lost its ass on the service as, aside from implementation issues, the service was relatively unwanted.

    In a poll not too very long ago, something like 75% of American households do not have broadband, and of that a vast majority were without by choice, not seeing any compelling reason to leave dial-up or have Internet at all.

    Given how little attitudes to which I am exposed have changed, I see a national policy on this, well, as a national policy on failure. The United States is a very large and expansive country with too many sparse population centers to effectively doll out broadband to the extent that many believe it should be. Perhaps a TVA-style approach to broadband will push out the infrastructure, but the maintenance on the unused bits will most certainly push up the price for those who take advantage of it. At the very least, I do not see prices falling. (And unfortunately I absolutely do not see the quality of customer service getting any better.)

    Another aspect to consider is whether we should build out land-line broadband or mobile broadband. Mobile broadband would be the choice of those on the go as it can follow you, but for many the 5GB caps would rule against its usefulness.

    In short, I think the American People need to decide what they want before we start mucking about with policy and legislation. For that matter, forget anything more than just a national policy framework -- let the states push policy on broadband if they so desire. What is good Internet for those in California may not be good Internet for those in New York, or Montana, or Louisiana, etc.

    National policy on consumables is great for countries in which you can TELL the people what to do and what they want, where a one-size-fits-all approach really is viable. That is not how we do things around here. At least, that is not the way we PREFER to do things around here.

    Paris, having it her way, too.

  15. Emilio Desalvo

    Molasses in winter?

    Not another Boston Molasses Disaster!

  16. Raspy32


    ....makes the U.K. another 5 years behind that, probably.

  17. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I'll start worrying

    when a web site puts out more than 64Kbit of USEFUL information a day.

    You only need 45Meg to read reg readers bleating about how they haven't got it.

    With a hundred meg they could make videos of themselves bleating about how they haven't got 250 meg.

    The bandwidth goes up and the data rate continues to fall.

  18. Tim Williams 2

    State by State

    I'd be intrigued to see all figures on a state by state basis. I can appreciate why the figure for Alaska would be low, but how about New Jersey or California, which would probably be a fairer comparison with S. Korea or most European countries.

  19. Daniel Owen

    US Population Density 50 years behind South Korea

    Absolutely nothing to do with the technology, simple as that.

  20. Isolated Penguin

    Real Internet Speeds in South Korea

    I live in South Korea and work as a network administrator. The following anecdotes are from my personal experience.

    - The average numbers that they give in the report (5mbps) is not even considered acceptable service by most Koreans. From my experience the average broadband speed for an apartment build more than 5 years ago, less than 10, is 100Mbps down and 5~10Mbps up. 10 years old and older it is 50Mbps down 2~3 Mbps up. It costs 37,000 won ($30.80) for Basic 50Mbps and go up from there. I had the service installed into an apartment we manage month before last. I tested it to verify the speed.

    - Korea has true service competition (government mandated of course), I can have my choice of any or all of 3 or 4 major service providers as well as some smaller ones. Service installation times are usually one business day after ordering. Call in the morning and you can usually have the services installed that afternoon or the next day at the latest. If the Technician does not show up at the agreed time, he calls you and sets the apportionment personally with you, you have the right to file for compensation with the service provider. In 1996 before I knew this, I once joked with a service technician. He asked when I wanted the service, ISDN, he was having some trouble with the line and its provisioning. I replied in a smart assed management way "I wanted it yesterday. If I wanted it today I would have called tomorrow." His face turned white. It took a while before he understood that I was trying to joke with him. I never used that line again.

    - The government has mandated that by the end of 2010 all metropolitan areas of the country and will have gigabit speeds available and the countryside will have it by 2012 to 2013 distant Island communities by 2015. The project is slightly behind schedule but is expected to finish on time.

    - My boss who owns a weekend house in the "country side" has a solid 56Mbps download speed limited by the fact he is using wireless G (router is in the same room). Wired it is close to 100MBPs

    - I helped a friend move into a newer smart apartment unit last spring (built about 5 years ago). He has Fiber to the net distribution box in the apartment wall. The entire house is computer controlled from the gas to the cook-top to the heating cooling and lighting systems, exterior building doors, safety and grounds surveillance systems to the many other functions that he has not figured out on the apartment management computer. Parents can watch their children in the playground from their PC or the built in apartment management computer terminals located in the living area and/or the kitchen work area.

    - A coworker of mine did not bother to get cable TV when he got married and moved into a new apartment. He just selects a movie to watch from his Internet movie service and downloads the complete movie in 10 minutes. Then he plays it from his notebook computer to his new 56 inch LCD Hi Def TV.

    - Bundled Phone, Internet, Cell phone, and IP TV are available from 3 or 4 IP service providers, all at reasonable costs.

    This is what is happening in the "Old" parts of the country and is nothing in comparison to the development a New Songdo city. The entire city is designed to be a showcase of technology and Korea's capabilities. People who have visited and toured the new development describe it as walking into a Sci-Fi movie, minus the flying cars. I have not been able to visit there yet.

  21. david 63

    re:Real Internet Speeds in South Korea

    Ever read "The Machine Stops"?

    Trapped behind a locked door by a BSOD/virus/driver error seems liks a stupid way to die..

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here in England, we enjoy the toasty white heat of technology... (not)

    "...internet speed in the US increased by just 1.6Mbps between 2007 and 2009".

    Living in the pulsating heart of crowded, prosperous, thriving southern England, I am often lucky to get 1.6Mbps. Not 1.6Mbps *more*, you understand... just 1.6Mbps. On a very good day, I do as well as the average for Sarah Palin's Alaska.


    Of course I could save money and get close to 10, 20, or 50Mbps by switching to cable. There's just one drawback, though, and it's a killer. Our wonderful, technically competent UK government has seen fit, in its infinite mercy and wisdom, to grant an effective monopoly on cable to Virgin Media, possibly the most incompetent, uncaring, clueless giant corporation ever to stalk this poor old earth.

    When I finally cracked and actually entered a Virgin Media shop the other day, to make some tentative inquiries about what moving to their service might entail, I was met by blank looks when I asked if they could host my domain and handle my email. Eventually the manager was called, and he tried to echo my question - using the fine old sales technique of "testing comprehension". When he started talking about "dominions" I realised that there was no point taking up any more of their time.


  23. Anonymous Coward

    Lazy Corporate Greed undermines Capitalist dynamics.

    This has been covered before. Many US internet users gets speed caps, not from lack of capacity, but rather because many of the US ISPs are also lazy greedy cable/media companies, so deliberately restrict broadband speeds, so that they can continue to rake in money from extortionate cable TV bundles. There would be little need to charge per GB, if US Media ISPs were honest about the real costs.

    Fortunately the UK has ISPs without that level of media bias, so bundling tends to cause less price distortion, partly because most of our broadband is resold BT product, because digital cable, and optical fibre, are still not widespread here yet; unfortunately that also means that much UK broadband is still pathetically slow.

    Unbundled UK ISP connections often still have to use primitive 19/20th century phone cable technology, which causes ridiculous constraints on speed. I curse a certain Tory government for Crony-Corporatist bias, for stopping BT from rolling out tons of optical fibre; it could have been: unbundled just like phone cables has been, far lower maintenance, far more reliable than corroding phone cables/connectors, and far easier to boost/upgrade! Phone cables really suck for broadband; both myself and my neighbour had problems with phone cables, the fastest I can currently get, with ADSL2+, is 3M down and 640K up, and I had to change ISP to get that, because my old ISP, and BT, are too slow to roll-out ADSL2+!

    It is about damned time that internet access was classified as a utility service, worldwide, given that is how it is used now, so broadband connections and capacity should be upgraded, and prices based on competitive Capitalist market rates, not on the limitations of ancient tech and lazy Corporate greed.

    It really shows just how backwards, and corrupt, the West has become that we have fallen so far behind the curve e.g. our governments are effectively bankrupt financially and morally, and my employer now has a pain-in-the-* caching web proxy, because their broadband connection is not fast enough to cope with SME level network traffic!

  24. 7mark7

    @ Isolated Penguin

    Many thanks for the insight regarding speeds and connectivity in South Korea.

    If you have a minute to spare, we would love to have an insight into what Phorm is doing on the networks over there. If you would like to join in the debate we would certainly appreciate hearing from you.,1737.0.html

  25. Jesse Dorland

    re:re:Real Internet Speeds in South Korea

    By david 63 Posted Wednesday 26th August 2009 12:34 GMT

    "Trapped behind a locked door by a BSOD/virus/driver error seems liks a stupid way to die.."

    Yes, but the user was killed because turtle ISP was not fast enough to update the anti virus software.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    re: density matters

    Yeah - the most popular excuse in the UK - D E N S I T Y - popular but very poor I think ... this sorry case of excuse has been used for years to explain things such as why so much of the population do not have land lines (!) why in the UK we still have land lines along the streets on telephone poles - many countries got rid of those years ago - but not the UK. We even use this excuse to explain why some areas do not even have mobile phone coverage!

    So density has been a very convenient excuse for NOT investing! Makes you wonder about the case of Sweden..... mmm Sweden is a very big country with a population of about 9 millions (London has more). Many "urban" areas such as cities and towns in Sweden have no larger population then a medium sized village in the UK.

    In the UK we are at 40th place (5.1 Mb/s) in the download league and at the 60th place (0.68 Mb/s) in the upload league - great! While in Sweden they are at 5th place (12.94 Mb/s) in download speed and in 9th place (4.55 Mb/s) upload speed! (source:

  27. Anonymous Coward

    STFU all of you

    Boo hoo hoo! I live in an area where I only get multi-Megabit per Second connections to the world's largest time sink and pornographic image repository. And I have to pay an astoundingly low monthly fee for the privilege! Waaah waaah!

    Do you want to go back to dial-up assholes? 'Cause we'll do it! Don't think we won't! You'll be all like "Oh noes! I can't access my twit-book-face-space profile all the time because the one phone number is busy!" So you'll take what we give you and you'll *like* it dammit!!


    -Your ISP

  28. lukewarmdog

    @Tom Welsh

    You should have taken their dominion(s), then email and domains become things for other people to worry about.

    To be fair, the people they stock their shops with aren't the same people who know what's what. Neither are the people who run their technical services departments but that's another matter.

  29. david 63


    Nice one ;)

  30. John70

    South Korean Telcos

    Maybe South Korean Telcos should start providing Internet services to the West.

    As long as they don't bring Phorm with them.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Sarah Palin's Alaska has the slowest connection speeds of 2.3Mbps"

    Which is odd because I pay $20 / month for an unmetered 6Mbit download speed. Double that would get me 15Mbits, but I don't steal movies so I don't see the need. Internet speeds maybe faster in other parts of the US and Europe, but they don't charge you stupid amounts of money when you exceed ridiculously small download quotas up here.

    I suppose when you consider that most of Alaska is remote wilderness, the fact you can get broadband internet in the Arctic Circle as opposed to indoor toilets tells us something about the Facebook society we live in. Truth is though that people who live here rely on internet connections to keep in touch with friends and family, as even a move in-state can mean moving 1000s of miles away from loved ones. But having said that it does come as a shock the first time you sit by the road on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from the nearest town or city, and find you have a solid 3G signal.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Stop whinging about "it's just TOOOOO big to wire"

    That's all BS. They have had the money handed to them by the truckfull for the last 10 years to fiber-up the US and failed (both miserably and intentionally). there is no desire to create real competition because then your "customer" might realize how they are getting it in the rear and decide to get it from someone else. Simplest solution: mandate separation of delivery and content. You own fiber, wire or cable - you cannot supply any programming or isp services. You own any isp or programming service - you cannot own any transport. Require service level improvements on a regular basis and a regular guarantee of service delivery (you say 20Mb, you deliver 20Mb of better...what a shocker). Would you expect a cableco to say; hey we're going to give you 100 channels of crap and then only deliver 50 of them? That litre of petrol you put in your tank...sorry, it was only a half-litre. We would love to give you everything you THOUGHT you bought, but we can't do it...there's not enough (petrol, bandwidth, you name it) to go around so we're limiting how much you get; even though you still pay full price. Lying, cheating, stealing wankers.

  34. Paul Schofield

    @ Jesse Dorland

    Ah yes, Rogers and their 'Fees' or should that be extortion.

    what is already an overpriced package just gets bloated with System Access Fees...911 Fee, Fee for charging you Fees.... etc etc etc.

    Hell, they even tried to charge me for $100 for changing to a more expensive data plan on my cellphone... without telling me at the time, just tagged it onto my next bill.

    Worst thing is the competition is no better.

  35. Eddy Ito

    FCC & monopoly money

    Korea isn't afforded the benefit of by policies set forth by the U.S. Gubbermint.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    In theory, it's a free market system here in the US but when you only have one provider for a given technology (usually one for cable and one for DSL), it's hard to have any market forces come into play.

    It feels more like a market-free system: "you'll take what we give you and you'll be happy about it".

  37. Tony Paulazzo

    Speed here in the UK

    >Living in the pulsating heart of crowded, prosperous, thriving southern England, I am often lucky to get 1.6Mbps.<

    I live in a small town, nestled in a valley, midway between Manchester and Leeds. BT speed test informed me I'd get about a 6Mb connection before I signed up. Saturday morning wirelessly surfing from bed, I did a quick speed test: 6.6Mbs download, 381 kb upload. Now BT have emailed me to inform me that I will get restricted speeds in the evening thanks to Fair Use Policy (for the last few months, natch), but even then BBCi and 4od work perfectly.

    And, whilst I can't get cable where I live, I did have it when living in Halifax and the speed was bloody impressive, and if forced to talk to tech support, it helps to have a list of the most obvious things you've done to resolve the problem, read that to them and you usually get put straight thru to second level support, or the guys who actually know something.

    What's this got to do with US v S Korea broadband? bugger all actually, but 5.1Mbps - assuming you get the rated speed, seems fast enough to do anything you might reasonable expect to do on-line - minus downloading HiDef films or whatever. I downloaded Ubuntu (honestly!), just over 600MBs, took about half an hour -ish, Win7RC (DVD size) did take ages, but it used its own download manager. They're the two largest DLs I did in months - hardly a daily requirement. P2P never even approaches rated DL speeds, just leave it running overnight.

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