The average Internet connection speed in the United States may be well more than what's needed for multiplayer gaming or watching streaming video. But the country's infrastructure still lingers well behind what other nations enjoy, according to a slew of recent studies.
It's a textbook your-mileage-may-vary setting, of course, but the average U.S. connection speed is around 30 Mbps, tied for 14th with Hungary. The New York Times reported the latest figures in a story yesterday, citing several studies by private firms.
Thing is, private Internet service providers usually have tiered offerings of speed, and we pay a lot more for it. I pay about $50 a month to get 20 MBps from Time Warner Cable. I live in a small town where there is maybe one other option, and it is nowhere near as fast or reliable as TWC's basement-level offering.
My colleague Gergo Vas, in Budapest, gets 30 MBps for about $18 a month; he says there's tons of competition in the city, one reason service is good and the prices are low. And that's a theme in the criticism of U.S. Internet infrastructure.
It's not like the entire country is still using dialup-era technology. Speeds along the eastern seaboard are very fast, with connections in Washington D.C., Virginia and Massachussetts outpacing every nation except Japan and South Korea. Some cities with municipal fiber-optic networks go even faster, with places like Chattanooga, Tenn. placing in the top 10 worldwide if it was ranked against other nations. But Chattanooga customers on the municipal FO line pay $70 a month for a 1 Gbps second.
The Times quotes Susan Crawford, a former technology adviser to the Obama administration and a frequent critic of American broadband service providers. She argues that cities should treat Internet access like a public utility, as necessary to modern life and economic health as electricity.
The studies give a range of performances for U.S. Internet; in one, the country is 35th in the world (148 nations) in available capacity. In others, connection speed is somewhere between No. 14 and No. 31. A graphic at the link shows South Korea and Japan leading with average speeds of 53 and 49 Mbps, respectively, and eastern European nations like Romania and Latvia clocking in at 48 and 45 Mbps.
U.S. Struggles to Keep Pace in Delivering Broadband Service [The New York Times]