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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
UK behind in broadband race
Bar chart of broadband internet connections BBC
The UK is lagging far behind Asia, the US and the rest of Europe in home broadband connections, according to a survey by internet measurement company NetValue.

Out of eleven countries surveyed, only China reported a lower proportion of broadband users than the UK, with the US, Germany, France and Korea all way ahead in the table.

The slow process of rolling out broadband services in the UK has become notorious, with both incumbent BT and industry regulator Oftel coming under fire.

Although the statistics only cover households, several companies have warned that the UK's troubled broadband services could have a negative effect on the economy, especially amongst small businesses.

Broadband gives internet users better access to richer online material, allowing high-speed transmission of huge amounts of electronic data.

Top of the table

South Korea is well ahead of the other countries, with more than half of all households having broadband connections, with online gaming the most popular use for it.

Broadband benefits
24-hour internet connection
Video on demand
Fast interactive digital TV
Fast interactive home shopping
Video e-mail
Video conferencing
Fast downloading of games and music
The US also fares well, with 11% of households connected to a high-speed service. France has the highest percentage of broadband households in Europe, with one in sixteen households, or 6%, enjoying a broadband connection.

The UK is down at 3%, the same level as Spain, and only better off than China. One reason why the introduction of broadband internet access has been slow in the UK is the high cost.

In a recent survey, Oftel found that the UK's services were more expensive to the consumer than in Germany, France and the US.

But operating companies are also complaining that the investment costs needed to roll out the project are too high to be justified.

Age gap

WorldCom, RSL Communications, Thus and Dutch firm Versatel have all already pulled out of the race.

And other firms still in the running, such as Freeserve and AOL have criticised the pace at which they are given access to BT's telephone infrastructure, accusing the former state monopoly of discrimination by connecting up far fewer of their customers than its own.

In the US, children under 14 are by far the fastest-growing subscriber group to broadband services, and now account for 9.1% of the total US connections.

And the gender gap rears its head in broadband use, even more so than for normal internet use. The male population accounts for almost 60% of broadband subscribers, and 55% of all surfers.

This is making sites that offer audio or video choices, entertainment portals, and gaming sites gear their products towards a male and younger market.

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Background:
See also:

28 Aug 00 | Business
Understanding broadband
08 Feb 01 | Business
BT's broadband 'disgrace'
02 Apr 01 | Education
Plans for new web learning 'portal'
18 Jan 01 | Business
Oftel speeds up urban broadband
30 Jan 01 | Business
Thus scraps broadband plans
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