Broadband in the US is lagging (no pun intended) behind the rest of the world, both in terms of adoption rates and in speed. According to the OECD, [the percentage of American households with broadband Internet is ranked fifteenth in the world][oecd]. Even worse, the OECD defines “broadband” as “256 kbps and up”, which many would probably agree is a pretty paltry speed in this day and age. The FCC even used to define it as a mere 200 kbps—which isn’t even four times as fast as an old 56K modem—although thankfully, it seems to have been bumped up to 768 kbps or higher, which is a bit better.
[oecd]: http://www.oecd.org/document/54/0,3343,en_2649_34225_38690102_1_1_1_1,00.html “OECD Broadband Portal (contains data on broadband adoption rates)”
Now, if you follow that link and read the first two Excel spreadsheets (curse you, OECD, for not providing PDF or HTML versions of this data!) you’ll see that it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds: first, the US has the highest number of overall broadband subscribers of any country; second, most of the countries with higher adoption percentages are countries far smaller than the US (Britain, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, S. Korea, etc.). Naturally, it’s a lot easier to wire up the entirety of small countries than it is a continent-spanning nation that’s quite spread out, as much of the US west of the Mississippi River is.