Member states lagging in race for high-speed web surfing

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Series Details Vol.7, No.44, 29.11.01, p16
Publication Date 29/11/2001
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Date: 29/11/01

A STUDY by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - the Paris-based club of wealthy nations - places most member states in the middle of the pack in the race to offer the fastest internet access to citizens - known as broadband.

Critics say this poor performance makes a mockery of the EU leaders' pledge last year to make the Union the world's leading knowledge-based society by the end of the decade.

Heading the pack is South Korea with 13.91 broadband users per 100 people, ahead of Canada (6.22). Sweden is next (4.5), leading the US (3.7) and the Netherlands (2.74). Further down the list, the Czech Republic (0.11), Hungary (0.09), Poland (0.07) and even Mexico (0.02) beat EU laggards Ireland (0.01) and Greece (0).

The overall OECD average was one broadband connection per 100. The EU has tried to kick-start broadband with its law on local-loop unbundling. This was meant to boost competition for the digital subscriber lines (DSL) services to upgrade the traditional copper wires found in homes and businesses.

But broadband services can be offered by a variety of means, by cable TV networks, satellite, wireless or "ethernet local area networks", which are found mainly in Swedish apartment blocks.

The OECD said Europe's mediocre results compared with its Korean, Canadian and US rivals could cost it dear.

The challenge for the Union and other back-markers was to "emulate and exceed" their targets "as quickly as possible to break through the current access bottlenecks".

"This will not only stimulate growth in the entire communications sector but also drive growth in areas such as electronic commerce and contribute to overall growth in OECD countries."

Results of a study carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Article forms part of a special report on telecoms.

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