Akamai Technologies, operator of one of the world's largest content delivery networks, leverages the connection data generated from connections to its infrastructure to study the state of internet connectivity, security, and technology around the world — the results of which are published quarterly in its State of the Internet report. We highlight some of the findings from Akamai's Q1 report.
In the US
Broadband speeds in the US generally increased, except in Virginia, which saw a decrease of 4.3%, although it still leads the US with an average speed of 13.7 Mbps. In the US, 26 states have average connection speeds above 10 Mbps (called high broadband by Akamai), and all states had average connection speeds over 4 Mbps (Akamai's definition of broadband). Adoption of high broadband increased nominally, though only three states (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire) have adoption rates of over 50% for high broadband. Nationally, only 36% of users have connections above 10 Mbps.
Kansas saw the largest increase in year-over-year connection speed (91% to 8.6 Mbps), undoubtedly due to the introduction of Google Fiber in Kansas City, KS. The report notes that a legislative attempt to stymie collaborations between municipalities and private corporations to provide telecommunications or broadband services was proposed by a consortium comprised of Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable, among others. After an intense amount of scrutiny of the proposal, the idea was effectively killed before being brought to a state Senate committee hearing.
A global comparison
Globally, the US ranks 12th (at 10.5 Mbps) in average connection speeds around the world — the highest in either North or South America — and 17th (at 40.6 Mbps) in peak connection speeds. The UK is ranked 15th (at 9.9 Mbps) in average connection speeds, and 14th (at 42.2) in peak connection speeds. The leader in both categories is South Korea, with average rates at 23.6 Mbps average and 68.5 Mbps peak speeds.
The US is 7th in high broadband adoption, with 36% of the country on a connection faster than 10 Mbps. The UK is 13th in high broadband adoption at 32%. However, the US ranks only 27th in overall connectivity, with only 73% on a connection faster than 4 Mbps. For comparison, the UK is 16th, at 80%, a more favorable figure despite complaints from the Federation of Businesses declaring broadband in the UK to be "not fit for purpose." South Korea was again first, with 94% connected at 4 Mbps or higher; Bulgaria, Switzerland, Isle of Man, Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, Curaçao, Japan, and Israel rounded out the Top 10, all scoring between 85% and 94%.
With the increasing reliance on mobile phones and tablet computers for use of the internet, the connectivity on mobile service providers is an important statistic, and one on which the US falls flat compared to other countries. Average speed on mobile in the US is 5.5 Mbps (12th overall), with peak speeds at 15.1 Mbps (33rd overall), and only 33% of users average above 4 Mbps (22nd overall).
For comparison, 89% of mobile users in Ukraine average above 4 Mbps (1st overall), with average speeds at 7.3 Mbps (2nd) and peak speeds at 28.4 Mbps (14th). The average speed in South Korea is 14.7 Mbps (1st overall), with peak speeds at 41.3 Mbps (3rd), and 78% of users receiving average speeds over 4 Mbps (4th). Australian users get a respectable 4.6 Mbps average speed (18th overall), with 40% of users receiving average speeds over 4 Mbps (19th), and peak speeds at an impressive 114.2 Mbps (1st). Japan, home of NTT and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who are collaborating on a new 5G network standard, have a good showing at 5.7 Mbps average (10th overall), 47.3 Mbps peak (2nd), and 61% of users receiving over 4 Mbps (10th).
What this means
The ability to deliver content (music, movies, games, etc.) to consumers through the cloud is dependent on a reliable connection through which the consumer accesses the internet. The primary challenge faced in the US is the disparity of available connections between urban markets and rural areas, and the increasingly utilized and public disputes between ISPs and content subscription providers such as Netflix over net neutrality and data throttling.
This, combined with the death of unlimited data on mobile networks, makes digital content delivery via the cloud a less than reliable replacement for physical media. Relying on a digital-only release can shut out rural users who lack access to adequate connectivity, or urban users held hostage to access by their ISPs.
Let us know your thoughts on the quality of broadband internet access in your locale.
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James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.