The average download Internet speed in the United States has increased by only 1.6 mbps (megabits per second) over the last year, according to a study released Aug. 25 by the CWA (Communications Workers of America). At that rate of speed increase, according to the CWA, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet connections.
The CWA's Speed Matters Speed Test measures the speed of a user's Internet connection. The 2009 report is based on aggregated data from more than 413,000 Internet users who took the online test between May 2008 and May 2009.
The 2009 Speed Test also shows that only 20 percent of those who took the test have Internet speeds in the range of the top three ranked countries: South Korea, Japan and Sweden. On the other end of the speed test, some 18 percent do not even meet the FCC definition for current-generation broadband as an always-on Internet connection of at least 768 kbps downstream.
"Every American should have affordable access to high-speed Internet, no matter where they live. This is essential to economic growth and will help maintain our global competitiveness," CWA President Larry Cohen said in a statement. "Unfortunately, fragmented government programs and uneven private sector responses to build out Internet access have left a digital divide across the country."
The 2009 CWA data also confirms geography plays a role in U.S. broadband speeds. With some exceptions, broadband users in the Northeastern or Mid-Atlantic states are likely to have good high-speed Internet options. The five fastest states are Delaware (9.9 mbps), Rhode Island (9.8 mbps), New Jersey (8.9 mbps), Massachusetts (8.6 mbps) and New York (8.4 mbps).
On the other hand, users in Southern or Western states are less likely to have high-speed connections. Mississippi (3.7 mbps), South Carolina (3.6 mbps), Arkansas (3.1 mbps), Idaho (2.6 mbps) and Alaska (2.3 mbps) have some of the slowest Internet connection speeds.
Earlier this year, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes a provision calling for a national broadband plan by spring 2010 and $7.2 billion in broadband grants for unserved and underserved areas.
"I applaud the Obama administration and Congress for their commitment to develop a national plan that restores U.S. leadership in high-speed Internet policy," said Cohen. "Improving broadband deployment, connection speeds and adoption will help facilitate job and business growth. By continuing these efforts we can make sure that America benefits from the information age."
To report the real-time connection speed, the Speed Test sends an HTTP request to the nearest server and measures the time that it takes to receive a response. The test does not measure the actual transfer speed of a file over the Internet; uncontrolled variables, such as the content provider's server load and bandwidth, would interfere with accurate data collection.
The Speed Test, a full list of 2009 state rankings and a comparison to 2007 and 2008 averages are available at www.speedmatters.org.