Patrick Brogan

Internet Usage Data Reaffirm U.S. Leadership


Released October 22, 2014

A new USTelecom analysis of the latest annual Internet Protocol (IP) traffic data from Cisco shows that U.S. demand for bandwidth has continued its rapid pace of growth and will continue to grow quickly in the coming years. U.S. consumers and businesses remain among the world leaders in Internet usage. In fact, the data show that in the last several years the U.S. has closed much of the usage gap with the world leader, South Korea, while expanding its lead over other industrialized countries. Projections indicate the U.S. may take the lead over the next five years.

Thus, compared to global peers the U.S. is gaining ground, not falling behind. As discussed in previous USTelecom research, many measures of broadband performance, including international comparisons, focus on more theoretical measures based on capacity and largely ignore actual usage of the Internet. USTelecom agrees with the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 National Broadband Plan, which stated, “Many international broadband plans emphasize speeds and networks, focusing only on technical capacity as a measure of a successful broadband system. Our plan must go beyond that. While striving for ubiquitous and fast networks, we must also strive to use those networks more efficiently and effectively than any other country. We should lead the world where it counts—in the use of the Internet and in the development of new applications that provide the tools that each person needs to make the most of his or her own life.”

For example, while measures of investment are important, they are often “nominal,” in other words not adjusted for prices and increasing technological prowess. We can add to nominal investment data by looking at “real” investment impacts based on what users are actually getting. Measures of throughput capacity are moderately helpful, but they are also often theoretical – consumers use less than maximum capacity available. Therefore, the amount of data users are actually consuming to pull value from their broadband connections provides an additional, more practical gauge of how successfully a country’s broadband networks are providing residential and business consumers with what they want.