US is now 10th in broadband speeds

Well at least we beat Bulgaria. There’s a new report out detailing the world’s internet usage, and it’s not exactly great news for US users. We’re tenth out of the top ten in speeds, with an average speed for all users of 18.7 megabits per second.

The chart shows South Korea neatly beating everyone else in internet speeds which is not exactly a surprise. It was compiled by Akamai, one of those huge companies that no one really understands. Akamai is actually a huge part of the internet as they host rich content (like streaming video) for literally hundreds of companies,display and track advertising, and sell security solutions. Their report summary is free (and available here) and really serves as one big advertisement for them. Not that I blame them, since this blog could be said to be one big advertisement for SolidSignal.com.

If it seems surprising to you that average speeds in the US aren’t even up to 20 megabit, remember all those users you probably aren’t thinking about — people in rural areas where the choices are satellite or DSL, hospitals and retirement homes, and businesses where the entire company is still sharing a 15Mbps line. While there are a few people who genuinely do get that vaunted 1000Mbps service and quite a bit more whose speeds approach 100Mbps, it’s not enough to make up for people all across the country who can basically stream one thing at a time without clogging up the lines.

At least it’s an improvement. That same report listed US internet speeds at an average of 7.3Mbps in 2013, although back then we were in 8th place.

I think very few people would disagree that as the years pass internet speeds will rise, but will they rise fast enough? The demand for internet-based video is growing every year and more importantly we’re seeing multiple people in each household who each want to watch something different. As people demand better video quality, that’s going to keep straining existing internet lines until everything gets clogged.

Of course, as I’ve said before in this blog in the past, AT&T believes that 5G wireless will help with this. You can add a lot of internet capacity if you don’t need to run wires to every home. Within 3 years, I expect we’ll see this kind of thing rolling out nationally and the impact to average speeds could be dramatic once it begins to roll out to rural areas.

It seems a bit embarrassing that the USA, the company that pioneered a lot of early internet technology, is not leading the world in internet speeds but remember that a lot of the countries that surpass us have a national internet service provider where here in the US we encourage a lot of competition. Sometimes that helps things radically improve quickly but in this case it seems to be creating little pockets of the country where speeds aren’t as good as they are in others, possibly because of smaller service providers who just aren’t holding up their end of the bargain,or because of huge ISPs like Comcast and Spectrum who have historically shown they don’t care about customer satisfaction. Either way, no matter what the cause, the US has some catching up to do.