Skip to main content /TECH with /TECH

Headline News

Bringing the United States up to speed

By Renay San Miguel
CNN Headline News

(CNN) -- Since it's back-to-school time across America, here's a pop quiz (and please, no peeking into the database of the person sitting next to you in class):

Which city in the world boasts the most high-speed Internet connections?

A few hints: San Francisco, California, perhaps, with its proximity to Silicon Valley? Maybe New York, with its oh-so-sophisticated urban Web surfing population? Or Seattle, Washington, home of tech trailblazers such as Microsoft Corp., and Real Networks?

The correct answer: Hong Kong, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, which makes its living by measuring Internet audiences worldwide. The company conducted a global survey of Web trends in April.

"In Hong Kong, an astonishing 66 percent of those who responded and have Internet access use either a cable modem or high-speed telephone connection to access the Internet," said Lisa Strand, Nielsen director and chief analyst.

"This indicates a well-developed, high-speed infrastructure and the consumer desire to attain information at faster rates."

By contrast, the United States is a dial-up country, with 83 percent of households still using a 56K modem to access the Web. The remaining 17 percent have either a high-speed DSL phone line connection or a cable/satellite modem.

New York is the closest U.S. city to Hong Kong in terms of broadband use. "In fact, nearly 10 percent of active broadband users in the U.S. are in the New York area, a location similar to the dense, urban setting of Hong Kong," Strand said.

The Nielsen report also shows why Congress and private industry are trying to jump-start broadband use in America. While broadband usage is growing in Hong Kong (up 8 percent from the first three months of this year), the growth rate in the United States is down "due to the comparably high subscription prices, lack of compelling content and limited geographic accessibility," Strand said.

Some other nuggets from the Nielsen/NetRatings report:

  • Since most other countries in Europe and South America are also on dial-up access, Nielsen concludes that the Internet is lacking the "must-have content" that would spur Web surfers to get that high-speed service. Hong Kong had the highest use of online radio stations, but e-mail continues to be the most dominant activity for Internet users around the world.
  • There are 553 million people worldwide with Internet access.
  • E-commerce continues to gain momentum in many countries, with more members of the adult population browsing for and buying products on the Web in the past six months. But even though Hong Kong has the highest broadband rates, that city had one of the lowest rates for purchasing online.
  • The United States remains tops in one category: It has the largest Internet population, with 30 percent of global Web surfers living in the land of the free and the home of e-mail spam.
  • A bill is pending in Congress that its authors say would free up telecom providers to stretch high-speed access across more of America. But the bill's critics say it would also give those providers a monopoly on high-speed access.




    Back to the top