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According to Akamai’s Q3 2015 rankings, Belgium ranks 24th in the world in terms of Internet speed. On average, providers offer good download speeds, starting from 20 Mbps up to 230 Mbps, and upload speeds of 512 Kbps up to 25 Mbps.
Out of the approximate 11 million Belgian citizens, nearly 8.6 million have or have had access to the Internet in recent years, or 82% of the population. This brings Belgium to the 27th spot in the world.
The Belgian Internet infrastructure is generally well-developed, but in contrast with other countries, notably Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria or Romania, there are a few outdated business practices put in place, such as bandwidth caps. However, with the ongoing advancement of the local infrastructure, these practices have started to disappear, but not noticeably. Belgian Internet consumers have got used to these practices and do not actively oppose them, so there is no actual need for the ISPs to completely abolish them.
Here are a few characteristics about the state of the Internet in Belgium:
There are 61 ISPs in Belgium which provide a total of four distinct Internet services: DSL, ADSL, VDSL and cable. Among these, the most popular technologies are DSL, ADSL and VDSL. However, cable technology is not unknown, it covering almost all of Flanders.
For DSL, ADSL and VDSL, the most popular providers are Proximus, Billi, Dommel, EDPnet, Orange, Scarlet and Telenet. For cable, providers include SFR, Telenet and VOO.
Some of the abovementioned companies make use of outdated business practices, such as bandwidth caps. Typically, these are anywhere between 5GB/month to 1000GB/month, depending on the actual subscription that a client opts for. However, this disadvantageous practice gradually disappears from the local broadband market. As of June 2008, Dommel and Yabu have been providing cap-free ADSL subscriptions. In June 2010, other major companies such as Telenet and Belgacom have continued the cap-free connection trend, but with Fair Usage Policies put in place.
Belgium is part of the European Union, and just like any other EU country, they are forced to adopt a liberal position towards the Internet. There are no known stern regulations on access to the Internet, and people’s privacy on the Internet is fully respected, but in recent years, the Belgian government has been trying to take down websites allegedly involved in distribution of copyrighted material, especially file sharing or torrent websites. Those that have not yet been taken down are currently blocked by all major ISPs, so Belgian citizens usually have to resort to proxies or VPNs to get around this restriction. There is however a counter-law that allows all citizen to use copyright material as long as it’s for personal use, much in the same way as the US Fair Use Act works, but it is not clear to which extent it is actually upheld.
Although there are many Internet providers in Belgium, Proximus has bought a big portion of the competition. As a result, for a 10 Mbps connection with unlimited data, Cable or ADSL-based, Belgians are in to pay a whopping 40 EUR per month. To put in contrast, Romania boasts Internet connections of 100, 500 and, as of late, even 1Gbps, and costs for these usually don’t exceed 15 EUR per month. Internet in Belgium is definitely expensive, and compared to what other considerably poorer countries offer in terms of Internet speeds, notably those found in Eastern Europe, local ISPs need to reconsider their business practices.
It should come as no surprise, but due to the fact that Internet in Belgium is quite expensive, costs for web hosting provided by some of the biggest companies on this market are indeed huge, and from a price/quality ratio standpoint, you are not given many consistent features. It also seems that there isn’t a lot of competition on this market, primarily because not many businesses actually host their websites or servers in Belgium due to the bandwidth caps and legal concerns.
Given that copyright infringement is taken very seriously by legal Belgian authorities, hosting companies comply with these regulations and have special clauses outlined in their Terms of Service stating that those who are found to be using copyrighted material of any kind will be banned from using their services. Owing to this particular aspect, offshore hosting providers are little to no existent, since Belgium is not really a “copyright haven”.