America has long been the land of the free and the home of shitty internet. But according to an FCC report published today, things are at least trending in the right direction. Which is to say America’s internet is getting faster, fast.
Since 2011, the United States upped its average broadband download speeds from 10 Mbps to 31 Mbps as of September 2014. But compared to other countries, we’re still struggling to keep up. According to the FCC, the US ranked 25th in download speed in 2013, falling behind countries like Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, and a slew of western European countries like Switzerland, Sweden, the UK, and France. Even with the FCC’s updated numbers, the US would still barely make the top 10 even if all other countries remained static. Akamai’s 2015 report earlier this year also confirms that America still resides squarely outside the top 10.
America’s internet infrastructure is incredibly complex, but there are two big reasons why the US can’t seem to catch up: Geography and lack of competition.
The first one is simple enough. Luxembourg and South Korea have some of the fastest internet on the planet, and not coincidentally, some the smallest amount of ground to cover. America is friggin’ huge in contrast so creating a fast, steady infrastructure to bring high speed broadband to rural and urban areas is a herculean task on its own.
Unfortunately, some ISPs don’t make things any easier. Many markets in the US are stymied by massive companies like Verizon who control the pipes for other networks and also sell access to consumers. Some 63 percent of Americans only have one high-speed provider to choose from, which grants other giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable the freedom to upgrade speeds as they please without fear of losing any customers. Add in the fact that streaming video is quickly becoming the internet media of choice—the FCC speculates it will be 80 percent of all US traffic in 2019—and things start slowing to a crawl.
But let’s focus on the positives for a second. Actual broadband speeds are improving across the board at a steady clip, with Cablevision leading the pack at an average 60Mbps.
Actual speeds by ISP across speed tiers, geography, and time (2011 - 2014)
Even if those jutting mountains of dark blue don’t get you excited, it’s also worth nothing that this data is from months before the FCC officially upped the broadband minimum for 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps, not to mention that 2015 was a pretty great year for all internet-loving individuals. We may not be the best of the best, but things are at least getting better.