What is the status of Internet usage in Europe? Are we on par with respect to new technologies? To find out, the European Commission recently commissioned a special survey of 25,000 households between December 7, 2005 and January 11, 2006. The results of this Eurobarometer survey, published on August 25, reveal certain facts about our usage of the Internet and other consumer communication devices. They also expose several disparities. One key finding is that most households with Internet access use a high-speed connection: 23% of users—nearly one out of every four households—now have broadband, while 16% still have narrowband or dial-up. Of those with high-speed Internet, 80% have an ADSL line, while only 17% use cable.
Why these variations? Primarily, broadband is more popular in countries where the Internet is now practically a fact of life. Sixty-two percent of households are equipped with high-speed Internet in the Netherlands, while 45% are in Denmark and Sweden, and 41% in Finland. The inverse is true in countries where the population is mainly rural. In Ireland, for example, 29% of connections are narrowband and 7% are broadband.
In Cyprus, the same pattern emerges: 21% of households use low-bandwidth and only 1% broadband. But it cannot be generalized, and exceptions exist. In countries like Germany and Slovenia, more than half the population uses the Web, but only a small number have gotten high-speed access.
High-speed is more successful in highly industrialized countries
Another factor can account for different practices. It seems that the larger the household, the more likely it is to opt for high-speed access: 34% of households of four people or more, against 12% of people who live alone.
Even though high-speed access has its practical advantages and makes it possible to transmit high volumes of data, it does not appeal to everyone. While 22% of narrowband users complain that broadband is too expensive, 40% are simply satisfied with what they’ve got and see no need to change. That’s a satisfaction rate hard to ignore.
When it comes to phones, the statistics are extremely positive: 97% of EU households have access to voice telephone service—61% of them having a landline and a cell phone, and a mere 18% using a cell phone only.
What do all of these numbers mean? In the words of Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, “This survey provides useful information about consumer behavior on today’s constantly changing market of communication services.” Useful for devising a commercial strategy or for working toward the ideal of European unity?
By Mathilde Cristiani