The covid-19 pandemic has many of us working and learning from home, which means access to fast internet is more important than ever. Unfortunately, despite being the richest country in the world, the U.S. has fallen out of the top 10 list for the countries with the fastest broadband speeds.
Based on recent data from Speedtest.net’s Global Index, first highlighted by DecisionData.org, for the past few years the U.S. has typically hovered between No. 7 and No. 10 among countries with the fastest broadband speeds. But in the last year, average broadband speeds in the U.S. haven’t improved as quickly as other developed nations.
In April 2019, average broadband download speeds in the U.S. were about 118.6 Mbps, placing America at No. 7 on the list of countries with the fastest internet speeds. A year later, average download speeds had only risen to 132.6 Mbps, placing the U.S. 11th—behind Macau, Denmark, and Sweden.
Meanwhile, despite the lack of any huge gains in broadband speeds, with average download speeds of 198.4 Mbps, Singapore comfortably retained its No. 1 spot ahead of Hong Kong (176.7 Mbps) and Thailand (159.9 Mbps), which rank second and third, respectively.
While it might be easy to attribute the U.S.’s relatively lackluster gains in broadband speeds on covid-19, recent data published by Speedtest.net (and updated yesterday) that tracked changes in speeds between Jan. 6 and March 2 shows that’s really not the case. Both the U.S. and the global average increased by an average of 1 percent.
That said, 130 Mbps or so would be more than enough for most people—if they could actually get those speeds. Unfortunately, for people living in more rural areas who don’t have access to one of the big ISPs, even getting 50 Mbps can often be a challenge.
What’s most worrisome about Speedtest’s latest global index is that while the U.S. still ranks in the top 15 for broadband speeds, it ranks just 33rd at 43.7 Mbps when it comes to mobile data. That’s a pretty weak showing compared to similarly sized countries like China (84.9 Mbps), Canada (73.52 Mbps), and Australia (62.15 Mbps) which all rank in the top 10 for mobile data, with South Korea taking the top spot at 88 Mbps.
A country’s size may partially account for the fact that smaller nations have faster fixed broadband speeds than the U.S., but it’s clearly not the only reason—as evidenced by the U.S.’s mediocre mobile data speeds. And with covid-19 forcing many schools and businesses to rethink the need for having large offices and campuses, the U.S. really needs to step up its efforts to make fast internet access available to more people.