re you an AT&T residential broadband customer in the United States, grumbling over the inauguration of 150GB bandwidth caps for your pokey DSL connection? Or maybe you're a Canadian—bitter over the low ceiling caps imposed by Rogers Cable and other ISPs, not to mention the likely expansion of metered billing packages down the line?
If you've had the vague sense that the Internet in North America is moving back toward scarcity rather than forward to abundance, we've got a solution for you. Move to Lithuania. TEO LT, Lithuania's top telecommunications service, says that in two weeks the company will boost the speed of its ZEBRA Fiber-to-the-Home ISP service "premium" plan to up to 300Mbps for downloads.
The "basic" plan's speed will double—from 20 to 40Mbps; the "optimal" plan will go from 80 to 100Mbps.
Oh, and by the way: "TEO will increase the Internet speed for residential customers without any additional fees."
Up from 100Mbps
These speed hikes apply to throughput rates that were already not too shabby. Only a year earlier, TEO jumpstarted its speeds in some cases by a factor of four—to 100Mbps upload and 80Mbps downloads for its premium plan, and up to 20/5Mbps for its basic package. Now it's making the network even faster.
Here are the current plans and how they'll increase in speed by May 16. Older plans featured reduced speeds when accessing content beyond Lithuania; many of those restrictions appear to be going away.
You'll notice that these rate plans all include the dreaded "up to" codicil. As everybody knows, there's a notorious gap between advertised "up to" and actual broadband speeds. The United Kingdom's Ofcom regulatory agency pays particular attention to this problem, which is quite pronounced when it comes to DSL services.
But if the Ookla broadband testing service's data is to be believed, Eastern Europe leads the way in terms of the percentage of advertised throughput rates that Lithuanians and their neighbors actually get (it looks like Moldovians get even more!):
- Republic of Moldova, 109.21%
- Russia, 98.65%
- Slovakia, 98.64%
- Lithuania, 97.97%
- Ukraine, 97.58%
- Hungary, 96.80%
- Switzerland, 96.72%
- Bulgaria, 95.96%
- Latvia, 94.83%
- Norway, 93.97%
According to the Fiber to the Home Council Europe, Lithuania is already the front runner when it comes to deployment of FTTH networks. It tops the European list at 22.6 percent household penetration. Next comes Sweden at 13.6 percent. In absolute numbers, Russia is number one at 4.18 million fiber households, followed by Sweden (600,000) and France (486,700).
TEO says its telecom network is accessible to about half of Lithuania: 570,000 households. Its next-generation services are available to most of the residents of that country's big cities: Vilnius, Klaipeda, and Kaunas. Over half of Panevėžys and Šiauliai residents can get them too.
Why are Lithuanians getting this FTTH windfall? Investment, it appears. TEO says it will plug more than LTL70 million (about US$30 million) into the fiber project by the end of this year, bringing the total investment to LTL325 million (about US$139 million) over four years.
Lithuania's neighbor Estonia, by the way, is ranked by Freedom House as among "the most wired and technologically advanced countries in the world." In 2009 more than 91 percent of its citizens filed their taxes online. Estonian identity cards facilitate widespread electronic voting for city and European Parliament elections.
"Restrictions on Internet content and communications are among the lightest in the world," Freedom House's latest report on the country notes.