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New University of Pennsylvania Analysis Finds U.S. is Far Ahead of Europe in Broadband Deployment, Access, Usage

June 03, 2014

Christopher Yoo, the John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Founding Director of the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC), today released a study that finds Europe lags behind the United States in high-speed broadband deployment, investment, and usage. The analysis also looks at the data disparities in the context of the different regulatory approaches in the U.S. and in Europe, finding that the EU’s telephone-era, public utility treatment of broadband has resulted in stagnation.

The study looked at a number of different broadband performance indicators, including network coverage, deployment of fiber and LTE technology investment per household, adoption, speeds, utilization, and price. The report supplements the data with case studies of eight leading European countries, including France, Germany and Denmark, among others.

“The data speak for themselves, and the empirical evidence confirms that the United States is performing much better than Europe in the high-speed broadband race,” said Yoo. “Worries that the U.S. is falling behind are severely misplaced.” 

Europe has relied on regulations that treat broadband as a public utility and focus on promoting service-based competition. In contrast, the U.S. has generally left buildout, maintenance, and modernization of Internet infrastructure to the private sector and focused on promoting facilities-based competition. Yoo finds that the empirical evidence provides a strong endorsement of the regulatory approach taken so far by the U.S. over that in Europe.

“Fortunately, we have a real-world basis for assessing the impact of imposing telephone-style regulation on the Internet,” added Yoo. “As regulators in the United States contemplate rules for next-generation networks, it would be wise to consider how going down the path of stiff telephone-era regulation has fared elsewhere.”

In coordination with the study release, CTIC launched an interactive micro-site, highlighting the findings through infographics and maps showing U.S. and EU country comparisons.

As highlighted in the study, key differences between the state of broadband in the U.S. and Europe include the following, as of the end of 2012:

  • The U.S. led Europe in national 25 Mbps coverage 82% to 54%.
  • The U.S. led Europe in rural 25 Mbps coverage 48% to 12%.
  • Fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) was not a key driver of 25 Mbps coverage.
  • The U.S. led Europe in FTTP coverage 23% to 12%.
  • The U.S. led Europe in LTE coverage 86% to 27%.
  • The U.S. regulatory approach emphasizing facilities-based competition was significantly more effective in promoting 25 Mbps coverage than the European regulatory approach emphasizing service-based competition.
  • Investments per household were more than two times greater in the U.S. than in the EU.
  • Entry-level broadband prices were lower in the U.S. than in Europe.
  • Prices for higher-speed service were higher in the U.S. than in Europe, although U.S. households consume 50% more bandwidth than European households.

The Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition is dedicated to promoting foundational research that aims to shape the way legislators, regulatory authorities, and scholars think about technology policy, intellectual property, privacy, and related fields. Through major scholarly conferences, symposia, faculty workshops, and other activities, CTIC is committed to providing a forum for exploring the full range of scholarly perspectives on these issues.

Yoo has been a leading voice in the “network neutrality” debate that has dominated Internet policy over the past several years.  His research focuses on using network engineering and economics principles to provide insight into how the Internet and other electronic communications should be regulated. He frequently testifies before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission.