Virginia’s Got The Fastest Broadband In The U.S., But South Korea’s Still The Speed Fiend’s Place To Be

Image courtesy of Akamai's top 10 worldwide best average internet connection speeds for the end of 2014.
Akamai's top 10 worldwide best average internet connection speeds for the end of 2014.

Akamai’s top 10 worldwide best average internet connection speeds for the end of 2014.

It’s that time again! Internet company Akamai keeps a sharp eye on the state of broadband at home and abroad, and delivers a quarterly report lining up just how we’re doing. But despite a whole huge pile of brand new data, the story remains the same: the U.S. still has a lot of catching up to do if we want to consider ourselves among the global broadband elite.

The new report (PDF) has the usual mixed bag of news. The good bit: improvement is widespread, year over year. All 51 states (the report includes the District of Columbia) saw increases by the end of 2014, as compared to the end of 2013.

However, the rest of the world is improving, too. And in many cases, faster. While the U.S., on average clocked in at 12th globally in the first half of 2014, by the year’s end we find ourselves sitting at #16.

As usual, of course, comparing a country with an enormous web of state-level governments and a 3.8 million square mile footprint against a compact city-state like Singapore may not be the most useful metric. But rankings within the U.S., at the state level, don’t reveal that much better a picture.

The U.S. top 10 for the end of the year mostly included the usual suspects, but in a new order. In the third quarter of 2014, Delaware held the fastest average speed, followed by Washington, Connecticut, Utah, DC, Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Jersey.

akamaiQ42014_states While the nation’s capital and the northeast are still good places to be for the best broadband, other states have now broken into the top 10 as well. Virginia now holts the number one position for average broadband speed, clocking in at 17.7 Mbps. Delaware’s dropped to number two, with DC, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, and New York rounding out the top ten. Delaware holds on to top average peak speeds in the nation, however.

Delaware also remains at the top for penetration of speeds above 10 Mbps, with 68% of connections meeting that threshold. The entire top ten list is at 50% or higher.

Arkansas has, unfortunately, maintained its last-place position despite an increase in average connection speeds in that state. Residents in The Natural State, according to Akamai, get an average connection speed of under 8 Mbps.

The U.S. is number one regionally speaking, at least; in the Americas, Americans’ average of 11.1 Mbps (a 15% increase from the end of 2013) beats out Canada’s 10.7 Mbps, with Uruguay coming in third and the other nations of South and Central America continuing from there.

For national “high broadband” access — speeds at or above 10 Mbps — the U.S. comes in at 17th globally, with about 39% of connections meeting that threshold. The good new is: that’s a 20% increase from this time last year.

The bad news is: that doesn’t meet the FCC’s new, aspirational threshold for “broadband” access — and it’s still not even 40% of the internet connections in the country.

These figures are important to keep in mind when we talk about broadband policy, like net neutrality or the Comcast merger. Fewer than 2 in 5 Americans with broadband access have connections that support most of the big, bold new connectivity features that companies and individuals alike tout as the cornerstone of the 21st century economy.

Average broadband technology speeds as compared to uses, via the GAO.

Average broadband technology speeds as compared to uses, via the GAO.

For teleworking, distance learning, and remote medicine — the great supposed benefits of the connected age — only a fraction of existing connections support seamless use. And that’s aside from entertainment, where 15Mbps is indeed the minimum “4K ready” threshold.

For now, we can clearly get by. Because we are getting by. But as the future continues to become ever more reliant on flawless, omnipresent internet access, it will become ever more crucial to make sure that all of us, in every state, can access infrastructure that keeps up.

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