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Europe Claims World Broadband Lead

A recent EU report says that Europe has more broadband subscribers and better mobile Internet penetration than any other nation on earth. The 114 million subscribers of the 27 EU member countries comfortably exceeds the 84 million broadband subscribers in the U.S. and 88 million broadband subscribers in China as reported by UK research firm Point Topic.

Europe is the "world leader in broadband Internet," said the "Digital Competitiveness Report: Main achievements of the i2010 strategy 2005-2009." The report discusses the successes of the EU's i2010 strategy, a five-year plan that ends this year and that was designed to "unlock the benefits of the information society for European growth and jobs," according to a press release.

Europe leads in mobile penetration too, with subscribers representing 119 percent of its population. "This makes Europe the world leader in mobile penetration, as the rates in the US and Japan are around 80 percent," the report said.

On the other hand, "Europe's mobile communications success has not spilled over into wireless broadband, where Asia is emerging as the world leader," the report said.

The news comes as the U.S. is falling behind in other broadband metrics, such as broadband penetration and fiber deployment.

However, the U.S. government hopes to change that with its broadband stimulus, which is designed to deliver broadband to areas where it is not currently available.

A recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life project, "Home Broadband Adoption 2009," provided some modest optimism about broadband in the U.S.

"Home broadband adoption stood at 63 percent of adult Americans as of April 2009, up from 55 percent in May, 2008," the Pew report said.

"The latest findings of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project mark a departure from the stagnation in home high-speed adoption rates that had prevailed from December, 2007 through December, 2008," the Pew report added.

In the U.S., the government has targeted those who lack broadband, and the Pew report said that's where the growth is. "The greatest growth in broadband adoption in the past year has taken place among population subgroups which have below average usage rates," the report said.

Such groups included the elderly, the poor, those living in rural areas, and those who never graduated from college.

Broadband and jobs

Many politicians see broadband as a tool to create jobs. "Europe's digital economy has tremendous potential to generate huge revenues across all sectors, but to turn this advantage into sustainable growth and new jobs, governments must show leadership by adopting coordinated policies that dismantle existing barriers to new services," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for information society and media, in a statement.

She said that increased broadband competition could generate 580 billion Euros and create 700,000 jobs by 2015.

She added that broadband's economic potential will be best realized by those aged 16 to 24, whom she called "digital natives" -- and who are joining the work force. "These young people are intensive Internet users and are also highly demanding consumers. To release the economic potential of these 'digital natives', we must make access to digital content an easy and fair game," she said.

While European broadband policy has focused on broadband infrastructure and job creation, other priorities will be factored into future plans, according to the report.

The primary objective of the i2010 strategy was, "a Single European Information Space offering affordable and secure high bandwidth communications, rich and diverse content and digital services," the report said.

Job growth will remain a high priority, and perhaps remain the number one priority, but the report noted that EU member countries want future broadband initiatives to include programs boosting green IT, cultural development, anti-discrimination, rights, eGovernment, and learning.



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