North, south, east and west, Internet speed matters.
From small-town America to the nation’s most populous places, commerce, education and entertainment rely on high-speed Internet. For the second consecutive year, the Internet Providers staff has examined data on Internet connectivity and security, and especially speed.
How does last year’s fastest community rank this time around? How is the United States trending for global Internet speed? See where your state ranks, and read about initiatives to bring fast Internet to more people and more places.
Cloud services provider Akamai tracks connection speeds nationwide, and Washington DC has now placed first for 2 years in a row. Treating DC as a state, the study discovered web subscribers there have an average speed of 22.47Mbps. That puts the nation’s capital atop the list for Internet speed for the second consecutive year.
Akamai’s study covers Internet connectivity and security. DC registers 3Mbps faster than second-place Delaware (19.57). Massachusetts (19.39), Rhode Island (19.37), and Maryland (18.58) round out the top 5. Utah (18.45) dropped out of the top 5, to sixth.
Rounding out the top 10: New Jersey (18.11), Virginia (17.87), New York (16.84) and Washington (16.84). The report also includes data on average and top speeds in 10 countries. It shows the U.S. (15.22) second to Japan (in Internet speeds, 17.2). The United Kingdom (14.63), Canada (13.41) and Russia (11.77) rank 3-5. Of the 10 nations studied, India still lags behind with 3.73Mbps.
Other tidbits from the findings:
- Washington DC’s average speed is twice that of 45th-ranked West Virginia (11.16Mbps.)
- Once again, the South didn’t register until the middle third, at No. 20. Tennessee (15Mbps) leads the way again south of the Mason-Dixon line, followed by No. 21 Florida (14.91), and No. 25 Georgia (14.59). That reads like college football rankings.
States with the most growth
Ohio (82.18%) jumped the highest compared to last year, more than 50% higher than the second-fastest moving state (Alaska, 29.70%). New Mexico (28.38%), Oklahoma (25.91%), and Montana (23.97%) also had considerable increases.
None of those states, though, averages more than 14Mbps.
Rhode Island led the way with 75.55% of residents who have access to at least 10Mbps speeds. All but two states in the top 10 in this category were also ranked among the 10 fastest for average speed. Connecticut (60.99%, ninth) and New Hampshire (60.48%, 10th) were the only outliers.
Two notable initiatives:
COLORADO | In November 2016, 26 communities approved ballot measures that allow them to offer broadband Internet service. That vote allows towns, now up to 95 in the state, to invest tax dollars in broadband networks. Longmont in 2011 first offered residents gigabit Internet as part of the initiative.
RURAL AMERICA | America’s Electric Cooperatives, along with 71 Congress members, called on President Donald Trump to help deliver broadband Internet to rural areas. The push is not just for education in those regions, but also to integrate web-based programs in the agricultural space.
What else can we learn?
That Internet speeds continue to rise globally isn’t the story. It’s what’s happening as a result.
Cities such as Chattanooga have developed municipal fiber networks. Chattanooga leases the infrastructure it built with a federal grant to Internet carriers. Businesses in the network area pay about $300 monthly for incredible 10-gigabit Internet.
Santa Monica, Calif., leaders built a network with similar roots as Chattanooga’s, in 2000. Business and residential customers can buy service on the network. Santa Monica upgraded the infrastructure in 2016 to support 100-gig speeds. The network is the first nationwide to reach those speeds.
Remember when Google chose Kansas City as its first fiber city, in 2012? Six others have since joined: Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah; Atlanta; Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Salt Lake City; and San Antonio.
Effect of increasing speed and bandwidth
EDUCATION | Initiatives to bring faster Internet to rural communities have parallels in metro areas. High-speed Internet costs have dropped, but remain prohibitive in some places. A competitive market benefits potential customers who haven’t had options.
STEM ACCESS | An uptick in faster Internet access also helps kids, especially girls. Kids can gain exposure to science, technology, engineering and math. Global competition for university admission and in the job market make it crucial that kids in the U.S. keep up.
BUSINESS GROWTH | Especially for a startup, greater broadband means gains in less conspicuous areas. This includes cloud storage and the need for large-file upload. As download times become faster, so too do symmetric, upstream speeds. They’re used for sending data to the web, rather than extracting.
How fast is fast?
How much speed do you need? We took a look at popular speed tiers common Internet service providers offer. Here’s what they’re capable of.
True speed isn’t easy to gauge. Several factors can affect how much speed you get at a given time. Some of the more common include:
COMPUTER COMPONENTS | Fiber Internet can’t reach its potential on outdated devices. Low memory, slow processor speeds and computer configurations can bog a network down.
WI-FI STRAIN | Even fast broadband isn’t infinite. The more devices you connect to a network, the less speed there is to go around. Also, those connecting in rooms far from your router won’t get the full effect of network speed. Wireless repeaters can strengthen your signal in more rooms.
BROWSERS | Which browser’s best? Depends on who you ask. Many devices default to Internet Explorer. That platform has improved in recent years. Plenty of users, though, choose alternatives, such as Google Chrome, Opera, and Mozilla. Some browsers are also better for customization and privacy.
What can I do with my speed?
5MBPS | Usually a base offering from providers, this speed will usher you easily from site to site, email to email. Conducting significant downloads or letting many users on the network won’t be so easy.
12MBPS | It’s likely not strong enough to support a family of browsers. A single user who doesn’t game and stream all the time should find browsing, social media and video clips a smooth operation.
24MBPS | Song and videos will download in half the time they would at 12Mbps. At this speed, you should notice an upgrade in sound and video quality, too.
50MBPS | Stream, game, and connect everyone’s device to the network. You could even begin that startup in your basement at this speed. Cloud computing is also within your realm.
75MBPS | This’ll support a startup or family with several users. Symmetrical speed at this tier would be excellent for sending video and audio files.
100MBPS | Video chats, streaming TV, gaming, and other bandwidth-dependent activity becomes virtually buffer-free. It doesn’t matter if you’re using several devices. As a home network, 100Mbps can handle about anything.
Internet speed tests
Your Internet service provider likely has one. So does Google, as well as other independent sources, if you’re skeptical. A typical Internet speed test will measure data speed through a connection. It will account for download and upload speed, download first, usually.
It also takes into account latency, that pause between a request and answer from a server. Turn off access to all other devices when you conduct a speed test, to ensure the most accurate results.