Even though the Internet was invented in the United States, Americans pay the most in the world for broadband access. And it’s not exactly blazing fast.
For an Internet connection of 25 megabits per second, New Yorkers pay about $55 — nearly double that of what residents in London, Seoul, and Bucharest, Romania, pay. And residents in cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris get connections nearly eight times faster.
For the third year in a row, the Open Technology Institute at New America conducted an extensive research project aimed at assessing the cost and quality of broadband Internet access plans in 24 cities in the United States and abroad. Our findings remain consistent — the majority of U.S. cities included in our report lag behind their international peers. This year, we streamlined our data collection to focus on Internet-only home broadband offerings1 and mobile USB dongle and wireless hotspot plans. As in previous years, we did not collect or analyze data on mobile phone data plans.
The report contains several components. First, it presents a review of existing literature on the subject of broadband availability and the relative competitiveness of broadband offerings and broadband packages available in the U.S. and around the world. In this section we attempt to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of existing reports and to situate theCost of Connectivity research among them. Next, the report contains a fully updated methodology that explains the research methods used to collect and analyze data as well as the methods used to present the findings. We then present our findings in three distinct subsections: Home Broadband, Mobile Broadband, and Additional Findings. In each of the first two subsections, the analysis begins with a straightforward presentation of plan rankings, and then moves through more detailed presentations that explore the relationships between price and speed. The Additional Findings subsection includes analysis of other data collected in the research, including some year-to-year price and speed trends, the role of municipal networks, the impact of data caps and modem fees, and examples of particularly user-friendly Internet service provider (ISP) websites. The report concludes with key takeaways and suggests questions for further research.
Virtually every city in the home broadband “Speed Leaders” ranking has seen an annual increase in its top speed offering since 2012. However, those speed increases have not resulted in dramatic shifts in the ranking of U.S. offerings compared to those in other countries. Most Asian and European cities provide broadband service in the 25 to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) speed range at a better value on average than North American cities (with a few key exceptions). In addition, when it comes to the estimated speeds a customer could expect to get for $50 in each of the cities we surveyed, the U.S. is middling at best, with many cities falling to the bottom of the pack. Our analysis also finds that, in terms of speed and price, cities with municipal networks are on par with Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, and Zürich and are ahead of the major incumbent ISPs in the U.S. In the mobile broadband space, USB dongle and wireless hotspot device offerings continue to be expensive substitutes for home broadband connectivity, with consumers in some other countries paying the same price for mobile plans with data caps that are up to as 40 times higher than those offered by U.S. providers.