New Report: Most U.S. Residents Lack 'Truly Highspeed' Web Connections

The Federal Communications Commission has been tasked with crafting a national broadband strategy and presenting it to Congress by February. And that's not a moment too soon -- at least judging by the current state of broadband in the U.S.

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.

Tags: broadband
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5 comments about "New Report: Most U.S. Residents Lack 'Truly Highspeed' Web Connections".
  1. Christopher Byrne from Byrne Communications, Inc. , August 25, 2009 at 5:47 p.m.

    Just another area where we lag as a country. Sigh.

  2. Richard L from LW , August 25, 2009 at 6:06 p.m.

    Right, time for the government to intervene. After all, streaming high-definition video is a constitutional right!

  3. Fred Rea from dkDC , August 25, 2009 at 6:47 p.m.

    and why is this? visiting friends Asia and Europe stopped laughing a while ago about our lack of bandwidth at home and in ANY hotels they stayed in here in the U.S. and are amazed that we have to pony up for $10 to get internet in so many hotels. is there not enough competition in the 'industry' to get faster rates and better prices? this sucks, this decades long lack of improved bandwidth - I'm tired of TV commercials bragging about value and speed. come on, whoever is supposed to be doing this. other countries have done it, so just why haven't we?

  4. Jeff Cole from JJC Communications LLC , August 25, 2009 at 8:30 p.m.

    Part of the reason - for good or ill - is that some other countries have faster broadband is because the central government's there mandate it. Local residents and governments have no say.

    Truly fast broadband demands infrastructure - fiber optic cable, towers, antennas, and other facilities. Many US communities resist this kind of construction because of aesthetic concerns. We have local control in the United States, so infrastructure is patchy. Until there is some kind of national policy on this akin to the Interstate Highway System, we will always lag.

  5. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing , August 26, 2009 at 5:33 p.m.

    Is it important? Recent Forrester data shows that 42% of broadband users know their actual download speed (meaning, could they name it by number of level of service), and 68% reported being satisfied with current service speed.

    But as this article indicate, we all need more speed if we plan on uploading all our medical records to share with "friends" on Facebook...