Broadband use soars in Europe

March 24, 2008

Broadband technology, forced by new providers in eight European countries, has exceeded the level in the United States and Japan. The European Commission said last week that the European Union added 19 million broadband lines in 2007, the equivalent of more than 50,000 households per day.

“We have four countries that are world leaders — Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland,” Viviane Reding, the European telecommunications commissioner, told the “New York Times.” “We have eight countries which have higher penetration rates than the U.S. and Japan. We are not doing badly at all.”

In addition to the three Nordic countries and the Netherlands, four others — Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and France — had surpassed the United States by July 2007. By January 2008, Germany had also done so.

Reding told the newspaper that the government will continue an effort to give regulators powers to force the incumbent telecommunications companies to run their businesses in a way that would make it easier for new competitors to enter the market.

The European telecommunications market is now worth 300 billion euros (about $470 billion), or 2 percent of European gross domestic product, the commission said. “Those who say that Europe is not a place of investment should cotton on,” Reding told the “Times.” “It has roughly the same level of investment as the U.S. and the same as Russia and Japan together.”

Half of the European Union countries could match the United States in broadband use by 2010, Reding said, if regulators take a tough stance to pry markets open. European Union broadband rates vary from 35.6 percent in Denmark to 7.6 percent in Bulgaria. The United States level was 22.1 percent as of July 2007, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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