America still has a slow Internet

America still has a slow Internet
June 6, 2016  |  BY

With all of the technical and telecom innovations coming from America, you’d think we’d have some of the fastest Internet speeds on the globe.

Not so. Just take a look at a recent state of the Internet report.

We don’t even rank in the top 10 – those spots are occupied by South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Latvia, Switzerland, Finland and Denmark. The U.S currently ranks 17tth.

These are statistics that would surprise most Americans. The Internet has become so tightly weaved into the fabric of our lives that we forget to consider the actual quality of our experience. And if you look deeper into the reality, we’re not just getting slower Internet speeds than many 1st world countries, we’re paying more for that slow service.

How did we get ourselves in this mess? The problem is that there’s almost no competition for broadband services. Actually, about 50% of Americans have just two choices when shopping for basic broadband. If they want the super fast variety of Internet access, they usually have but a single option.

With something as important as Internet service, it would be logical if we had other, higher quality options.

Many cities across the country are thinking the same way and starting to create their own broadband services. That list of locations includes Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia, Lafayette, Louisiana, Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Wilson, North Carolina. The people who live and work there are getting much faster Internet service via fiber rather than traditional telephone or cable lines. Other cities that aren’t prepared to follow suit have joined up with Google to provide high-speed Internet for their respective populations.

It’s impossible to know if these new efforts are responsible, but the average U.S. connection speed during the final quarter of 2015 rose to 14.3 Mbps. That’s a 29% increase from the same time of year in 2014. However, there’s still a long way to go to catch up to Sweden.

Many elements determine a country’s ability to deliver high-speed internet including population size, the level of competition among ISPs, types of geography, and if the government contributes in any way to the health of the country’s network. As much as it’s baffling that America has relatively slow internet speeds, logically it makes sense that a small country like Finland could be more efficient than a nation with hundreds of millions of people, 50 states, thousands of municipalities, an endless array of rules and regulations, and an infrastructure in various stages of both decay and modernization.

The takeaway of all this? We have to think critically when we hear a telecom company boasting about the speed of their network. We have to come together, as businesses and communities, to push for more choices and better service. We should study how technically inferior countries can provide superior broadband. After all, if we can send men to the moon, surely we should be able to watch the film Interstellar without any buffering issues.