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The European Union (EU) has topped the United States in broadband penetration, according to a report issued this morning by the European Commission (EC) that assesses the state of information and communication technology (ICT) growth under the so-called "i2010" program launched by the EC in 2005.
"The European broadband market is developing rapidly and already outstrips that of the United States," the EC wrote. It estimated some 99.2 million broadband lines in the EC, compared with 81.6 million in the United States and Canada combined, and 43.1 million in Japan and South Korea together. In 2007, the number of regular active Internet users in Europe rose by 40 million, to a total of 250 million.
"It is a welcome change of political direction that today, ICT, the main driver of European growth, is being promoted by all 27 EU Member States in their national policies. This helps Europe compete internationally and modernizes the daily lives of Europeans," comments EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding. "It is especially good news that 77 percent of EU businesses, 67 percent of schools and 48 percent of doctors are now benefiting from fast broadband connections."
Ticking off Europe's broadband achievements, in its report the EC says more than 96 percent of European schools now are connected to the Internet -- two-thirds of them to broadband, up from almost zero in 2001. In the health sector, 57 percent of doctors now send or receive patient data, up from 17 percent in 2002, with 46 percent of them receiving results from laboratories electronically, up from only 11 percent in 2002. Some 77 percent of EU businesses had a broadband connection in 2007, up from 62 percent in 2005, and 77 percent use the Internet for dealing with banks, up from 70 percent in 2005.
Still, the EC found the pattern of Internet and broadband usage varies widely from country to country. Nearly 40 percent of Europeans don't use the Internet at all, the EC noted, with the lowest usage in Romania (69 percent are unconnected), Bulgaria (65 percent unconnected) and Greece (62 percent unconnected). In contrast, only 13 percent of the populations in Denmark and The Netherlands are unconnected, and those countries also are two of the Top Three in EU broadband penetration, at 35.6 percent and 34.2 percent, respectively.
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In its report, the EC also warned, "There are now some signs of fatigue: growth in penetration is slowing down, and there are increasing gaps between Member States in terms of take-up, speed, price and coverage. Bandwidth requirements are on the rise and, although speeds are developing similarly to those in the United States, the migration to high-speed broadband in the EU is sluggish."
"Investment in next-generation networks is not going ahead as quickly as Europe needs," the EC lamented. In hopes of rectifying the situation and encouraging NGNs, this year it is going to "clarify the regulatory provisions for next-generation access."
Source: Telecom Web.