Today, a new report by SpeedMatters, a project of the Communications Workers of America, confirms that the U.S. lags way behind some other countries when it comes to high-speed Web access. The group's third annual survey shows that average download speed nationwide is 5.1 Mbps, up only slightly from last year's 4.2 Mbps. "At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea," the report states.
Average U.S. upload speeds are now 1.1 Mbps -- "far too slow for patient monitoring or to transmit large files such as medical records," according to the report.
The group also points out that even many people who have broadband don't have "truly highspeed" connections. Only one in five of the lines tested by SpeedMatters were faster than 10 Mbps downstream, while the more typical connection ranged from 768 kbps to 6 Mbps downstream. "These rates provide enough capacity to send and receive e-mail, browse web sites, or watch a 10-minute You-Tube video. But these speeds are not enough to handle high-definition video streaming," the organization writes.
SpeedMatters isn't the only group that measures broadband. But, while different groups report slightly different absolute numbers, all available evidence shows that U.S. broadband users have slower and more expensive connections than users in many other countries. Consider, Akamai recently reported that average broadband speed in the U.S. is 3.9 Mbps -- lower than average speeds in 16 other countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said this year that broadband costs an average of $46 a month in the U.S. -- higher than in 13 other countries including Sweden ($29), Italy ($31) and Belgium ($40). Advocacy groups like Free Press have argued for a long time that many consumers lack meaningful options because they have a choice of, at most, two providers -- their cable company or telecom. Reports like the one issued today by SpeedMatters offers yet more evidence that the U.S. public hasn't been served especially well by those providers, at least when it comes to broadband access.