We recently published the Q1 2012 State of the Internet report. Since it was the start of a new volume (our 5th!), as the editor of the report, I took the opportunity to update the definitions of the terms "high broadband" and "broadband" as they are used within the report. From 2008-2011, "high broadband" was defined as connections to Akamai at speeds of 5 Mbps or greater; starting in 2012, we are defining it as connections to Akamai at speeds of 10 Mbps or greater. And from 2008-2011, "broadband" was defined as connections to Akamai at speeds of 2 Mbps or greater; starting in 2012, we are defining it as connections to Akamai at speeds of 4 Mbps or greater. This update brings our definition of "broadband" into closer alignment with broadband plan speed targets in the United States, European Union, and China.
In an effort to identify a sufficiently common definition of broadband, I thought that I would look at the so-called National Broadband Plans that any countries have published -- these documents lay out goals and timelines for Internet connectivity within the country. However, what I found is that every country appears to define broadband differently, when they even define it at all. In undertaking my research, I looked for a "master list" - what speeds are each country aiming for, and by when? There's a National Broadband Plans from around the world article on Wikipedia, as well as a survey from the OECD, but neither of these were quite as comprehensive or definitive as I had hoped. Using these resources as a starting point, and doing some additional targeted searching on Google, I compiled a reference list of my own.
The research was enlightening, and led me to make several observations:
- Even in 2012, not every country has developed a National Broadband Plan, or at least hasn't published one publicly. Venezuela and Hong Kong, among others, were no-shows in my research.
- Some countries explicitly defined "broadband" as connections of at least a specific download (and sometimes upload) speed, setting adoption targets and timelines for those speeds, as well as higher speeds.
- In contrast, some countries appeared to simply aim for "broadband adoption" targets, without actually defining "broadband" within the plan, leaving me to wonder how they'd be measuring success without a baseline definition.
- Geography was recognized as a key factor in broadband deployment and adoption in a number of countries, where they set out unique targets for urban or rural households, or cities and the countryside. Similarly, countries often set out unique targets for households, educational institutions, health centers or hospitals, and government facilities.