Methodology for broadband cost comparisons

To report this story on broadband price comparisons, The Center for Public Integrity chose cities in the U.S. and France that had approximately similar populations and population densities. The Center chose France because it has the same proportion of its population in urban areas as the U.S. In addition, the population densities of the cities are similar.

Critics have said comparing U.S. broadband prices to cities abroad is unwise because the U.S. population is spread over a larger area. Greater population density leads to greater efficiencies and lower prices. By using France for comparison, the Center controlled for those differences. The comparison is not meant to be comprehensive, but a snap shot of two similar countries.

The Center made price comparisons at 10 megabits per second and greater, the speed that many broadband experts say is the minimum needed to download all the services available on the Internet while having more than one connected device in a home. In January, the FCC increased the minimum speed for what it defines as broadband, from 4 mbps download and 1 mbps upload to 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload. The higher standard will be needed because advances in technology, more robust applications and consumer demand will increase in the future, the FCC said.

The Center compared only standalone Internet packages, which did not include TV or phone service, after initial sign-up discounts expire. Most providers in France, however, included basic phone service in offerings. Connection charges, rental fees (for modems and routers), and taxes were not included. Taxes in France are typically higher than those in individual states, but are generally not so much more as to negate the large difference in pricing.

Prices were collected from providers’ websites using random addresses. The Center downloaded pricing information in November and December. Providers that covered less than 20 percent of a metropolitan area in the U.S. were not included. Prices were adjusted for the differences in the cost of living between the U.S. and France using the World Bank’s purchasing power parity index.

To map service areas, the Center downloaded the latest data from the National Broadband Map managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.