Life in the Slow Lane
Since the Internet was developed here in the United States, you’d think our broadband service would be the best in the world.
Trouble is it isn’t even close to the best.
The Internet was developed by the Department of the Defense back in the 1960’s. Based on that you’d think we’d be the envy of other countries when it comes to our broadband service. Turns out we’re more like the laughing stock.
A recent report from online content delivery service Pando Networks shows that the U.S. now ranks 26th worldwide for Internet speed, putting us just behind Hungary. And a country’ wealth doesn’t determine the quality of its Internet service. Hungary’s gross domestic product of $129 billion makes it the 56th-largest economy in the world. The U.S., the world’s largest economy, has a GDP of $14.6 trillion. South Korea, with a GDP of $1 trillion, has the fastest Internet speeds in the world.
So how is that in a country where companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft flourish, our Internet service has fallen so far behind?
Turns out there are two reasons, according to the Pando report. First, smaller countries with dense populations are much easier to wire than expansive nation’s like the U.S. Secondly, in most cases countries with advanced broadband service recognized the importance of the Internet early on and made it a priority while the U.S. lagged behind.
The Pando report also noted the Federal Communications Commission has far less power than it once did and is no longer able to compel telecommunications companies to improve service, especially, as we all know, in rural areas.
Our nation’s broadband speed should be seen as an embarrassment, especially for a country with a technological heritage as the U.S. The average South Korean can expect a download speed of 17.62 megabits per second (Mbps), followed by Web surfers in Romania (15.27 Mbps) and Bulgaria (12.89 Mbps). The average download speed in the U.S. is just 4.93 Mbps, or just over a quarter as fast as the very fastest connections on the planet.
And that’s the average speed; there are places where it’s much worse. If you live in Pocatello, Idaho (population 54,255), the best you can expect is just under 2.0 megabits per second. Overall, Idaho has the slowest broadband service in the country, with an average speed of 2.5 Mbps.
Okay, I know what you’re wondering. How does the service in Wyalusing stack up? We’ll here at the Rocket-Courier office we used an online speed testing service to find out that we’re just a bit faster than the national average at 4.96 Mbps. That was for downloads; upload speed was .87 Mbps. You can test the connection at your home or office by doing a Google search for “Internet Speed Test” or something close to that. The speed test we found was free. Of course there are different levels of broadband service and the more you’re willing to pay, the faster the service. Our service is one step up from basic broadband service.
The state with the fastest broadband service, by the way, is Rhode Island where residents there enjoy broadband speeds of 6.9 Mbps.
There are 33 states in the U.S. where Internet service doesn’t meet the FCC’s definition of broadband which mandates that users with broadband should be able to achieve download speeds of at least 4 Mbps. Based on that, the residents of those 33 states don’t really have broadband, even though they think they do.
It’s not impossible to find decent Internet Service here in the U.S., especially if you live near a large university or the headquarters of a major corporation. Verizon’s Fios service delivers downloads of 150 Mbps. AT&T’s best broadband tops out at 25 Mbps. And don’t forget about cable. Time Warner, Comcast and Cable Vision offer plans that deliver 50 Mbps and better.
About a year ago I was using the wifi in a coffee shop in Rockport, Maine and was amazed by the speedy Internet service. Rockport has a population of just over 3,000, so that means fast Internet service can be delivered even in some small communities.
The question is: when will it arrive here in Northeast Pennsylvania?