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UN Broadband Report: Iceland Tops 'Net Users

The U.S. ranked 19th in the world in terms of people online at 84,2%, according to the latest UN Broadband Commission report on worldwide access.

According to the report, over 50% of the world's population will have access to broadband by 2017. There are now 77 countries with over 50% of the population online, up from 70 in 2013.

Tops in people online -- the percentage of individuals who use the Internet -- is Iceland at 96.5%, followed by Norway, Sweden and Denmark,

The U.S. has dropped from 20th to 24th place in fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, according to the report.

Critics of U.S. broadband companies frequently point to the UN figures to make their point that the U.S. is not a world leader, but defenders point out that most of those ahead of the U.S. are small or self-contained countries where it is easier to drive high penetration and use.

“The U.S. has a different facilities-based competition broadband model than most countries of the world. It is designed for, and very successful in, encouraging private investment (over $1.2 trillion cumulatively), and in encouraging innovation by letting users decide and choose what technologies and services they actually need and want rather than government deciding many years in advance what users should want,” said Scott Cleland Chairman of NetCompetition. “The U.S. is playing a different broadband game, market-driven not government driven, so the measures of success – private investment, facility-choice, innovation, and consumer choice -- are naturally different.”   

NetCompetition members include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, AT&T and Verizon.

The report was released Monday at the tenth annual meeting of the Broadband Commission for digital Development, whose members include former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, now with the Carlyle Group.

Genachowski was chairman when the FCC produced the nation's first National Broadband Plan back in 2010. The report says that 140 countries have such plans, and 13 more have plans in the works.