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Broadband speeds are increasing, says European Commission

Only for some, not all
Fri Nov 26 2010, 14:06

BROADBAND CONNECTIVITY AND SPEEDS are growing faster than ever according to the European Commission, but it urges that more needs to be done.

The Commission's figures show that 29 per cent of broadband connections in the European Union (EU) have speeds of 10Mbps or more, a 15 per cent increase from 2009. Broadband takeup has also increased with 25.6 subscriptions per 100 EU citizens and even mobile broadband saw a 45 per cent jump, albeit to only six subscriptions per 100.

Although the figures are far from mind blowing, they are heading in the right direction and thankfully the Commission's bureaucrats aren't popping the bubbly just yet. Neelie Kroes, who is the European Commission VP for the Digital Agenda, said "Fast broadband is digital oxygen, essential for Europe's prosperity and well-being. Take up and available speeds are improving, but we need to do more to reach our very fast broadband targets. In particular, we need urgent agreement on our proposal to ensure radio spectrum is available for mobile broadband, for which demand is growing very fast."

In a statement, the Commission said technologies such as high definition video and teleconferencing "need much faster internet access than generally available in Europe today to match world leaders like South Korea and Japan." Trying to hit the lofty heights of South Korea and Japan isn't a bad goal to have, as South Korea has led the world in broadband takeup and speeds for some years now.

The figures show that 128 million fixed broadband lines were in operation in 2010 within the EU, an increase of nine million since 2009. The report also says that broadband takeup in the UK and eight other European countries was higher than in the US, where the figure is 26.4 subscriptions per 100.

Although the availability of broadband in the UK has improved, there are still many areas where broadband is simply unavailable and even when it is, the bandwidth is so low that it is useless for activities such as streaming video and online gaming. For many Brits having 10Mbps or higher broadband speed is quite literally a pipe dream.

What the Commission's figures do show is that broadband takeup is moving in the right direction and more software developers can work on technologies that make use of high bandwidth Internet connectivity. However what needs to be considered is the gap that remains between those who merely have access to some sort of slow 'broadband' and the more fortunate that have 10Mbps service or better.

Given that technologies are typically developed to meet the lowest common denominator, the task of ensuring that everyone has access to broadband will soon have to include raising the baseline speed to allow Brits to use the technologies that are already here. µ



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