Internet access in Romania still much better than USA

Remember this article of mine, where I shared my thoughts on why broadband speeds are so far behind just about every other country in the USA? Well, the difference has just gotten even greater.

A little under two months ago, I helped my parents in the US upgrade their broadband from AT&T’s unreliable and slow ADSL to Comcast’s digital cable. This means they went from speeds of 2-3 Mbps down and 512 Kbps up (with AT&T) to 15-16 Mbps down and 3-4 Mbps up with Comcast. That was a huge improvement, but it’s still nothing compared to what is available in Romania at the moment.

Here, Birotec (my ISP) has increased their broadband speeds ten-fold this month. That means I just went from 3 Mbps to 30 Mbps. We went by their store today to pay our bill, and while talking with the customer service rep, I found out about the upgrade. She said it quite matter of factly, as if it was no big deal. It’s a huge deal to me! With Birotec, I can get speeds up to 100 Mbps if I want to. And the broadband speed is almost symmetric upstream and downstream, because it’s built on a fiber optic backbone. I went to speedtest.net and tested my speed today. I’m getting even greater download speeds than advertised, which is amazing. I get speeds up to 54 Mbps downstream!

Do you want to know the best part? It still costs me only €10/month for all this blazing speed, and I get a free telephone plan thrown in as well, with my own number. In the US, it costs my parents over $50/month for internet access with Comcast, and if they wanted a phone plan, the price would go up by another $30-40.

Romtelecom, Romania’s largest telephone and internet provider, has also increased their broadband speeds. They’ve begun using a new DSL technology called VDSL, and they’re offering broadband plans at speeds up to 30 Mbps downstream and 6 Mbps upstream. Incidentally, their largest plan (30 Mbps) also costs about €10/month, but you’ve got to keep in mind it’s still DSL and the uplink speeds are slower. Plus, phone service will cost you extra.

I’d love to know which companies can offer the same speeds in the US, and at similar prices. Short of Verizon’s fiber optic network, which is only deployed in limited metro areas, and still costs more, what else is there?

And that begs me to repeat my original question: why are broadband speeds so slow in the US?


6 thoughts on “Internet access in Romania still much better than USA

  1. Hey Raoul,

    I stumbled upon your website by looking up logos for Electrica in Romania. Quite a site you have here.
    About the difference in prices for broadband ( and really anything else), you should take into account the difference in individuals’ incomes bet. Romania and US, and that might clarify a thing or two.

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    1. Right, the cost is a higher percentage of the average income (6% in Romania vs 3% in the US, and these are ballpark figures) but the quality of the broadband is better, and there’s higher coverage than in the US. And these Romanian broadband companies managed to do all this while charging less than their counterparts in the US, while their costs were very high (prices for parts and materials and hardware in Romania are at Western European levels).

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  2. Much of Comcast’s cable network is fiber as well; it’s just that their fiber ends at the node somewhere in your neighborhood instead of at your house like it does with Verizon. There are a couple of reasons why prices are so high in the U.S. First, it’s a big country, and it’s expensive to lay out the necessary infrastructure. Copper wires can only go so fast, and it’s expensive to dig up that existing copper and replace it with fiber. And secondly, in most municipalities, there are only two options for internet service: the phone company and the cable company. They’ve been granted legal monopolies to provide these services, so there’s very little competition when it comes to prices or features.

    It’s interesting that your ISP in Romania includes phone service at no extra charge along with internet service. I have Verizon DSL without landline phone service, since my cell phone meets all of my needs, and Verizon has the audacity to charge me *extra* for internet access because I don’t also have phone service. The same is usually true of the cable providers — if you don’t subscribe to at least basic cable TV along with your internet service, you have to pay more for the internet service. I could understand offering discounts to bundle services, but essentially imposing penalties for *not* bundling is really outrageous. But, unfortunately, there’s very little I can do about it — there is no competitor that I could switch to even if I wanted to.

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    1. And that’s one of the things I find amazing about Romania. In a country that’s full of corruption, with too many barriers for business to count, somehow healthy competition still exists among ISPs, to the point where I can get the prices and incredible speeds I’m getting.

      That’s not to say I didn’t breathe a huge sigh of relief for my parents when I switched them to Comcast and we were able to get those nice speeds I mentioned above, but US broadband prices are still too high. Yes, it’s a big country, but it also has a lot of people willing to pay decent prices for good broadband. Costs can be recouped, if only the proper investments get made.

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