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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regularly conducts studies of 30 nations to measure broadband penetration. Broadband penetration refers to the number of broadband Internet subscribers compared to the overall population. The OECD usually breaks this down in a simple ratio: the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

According to the OECD, the top 10 most wired countries are:

1. Denmark
2. Netherlands
3. Norway
4. Switzerland
5. Iceland
6. Korea
7. Sweden
8. Finland
9. Luxembourg
10. Canada

Each of these countries has at least 29 subscribers per 100 inhabitants — Denmark has 37.2. In comparison, the United States has 25.8 subscribers for every 100 inhabitants. Despite this relatively small discrepancy, the United States ranks 15th on OECD’s list. But the United States has more total subscribers than any other nation OECD surveys.So why is it that these countries have proportionally more broadband subscribers than the United States? There are several factors to consider:

* Population size: The United States has more than 300 million inhabitants. Denmark, the top-ranked country on the OECD’s list, has a population of 5.5 million. Out of the top 10 countries listed, Korea has the largest population (49 million) and Iceland has the smallest (306,694) [source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency].

* The size of the countries: The United States has an area of 9,826,630 square kilometers. Denmark has an area of 43,094 square kilometers. Out of all the countries on the top 10 list, only Canada is larger than the United States [source: CIA]. But Canada’s population dispersal isn’t as evenly distributed through the country — the northern half of the nation is sparsely populated. It’s more difficult and expensive to implement a broadband network in a larger country than a smaller one.

* The price of subscriptions: Out of the 30 countries the OECD examines in its studies, the United States ranked 13th in average monthly subscription price.

* National policies: The governments in the countries that make up the top 10 have a national broadband strategy. These countries consider broadband access a political priority and provide a framework for the Internet infrastructure. The United States does not have a comprehensive broadband strategy, leaving such decisions to corporations and utility companies.

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