The United States is home to some of the biggest, most
influential tech companies in the world. Homegrown giants like
) have revolutionized personal computing and mobile technology
across the globe, making America not only a leader, but also a
forerunner in advancing the way in which we all connect and
But you wouldn't know it by looking at how shamefully slow our
Internet speeds are.
According to a
by Speedtest.net, the US ranks an embarrassing 31st in the world in
terms of average download speeds. At 20.77 megabits per second
(Mbps), America falls behind countries like Estonia, Hungary, and
Uruguay. And considering the average download speed across the
globe is 16.20 Mbps, we are only a handful of spots away from
ranking below average.
Upload speeds are even more humiliating. Globally, we rank 42nd
with an average upload speed of 6.31 Mbps, behind Lesotho, Belarus,
Slovenia, and other countries you only hear mentioned on
In terms of upload speeds, we are nearly one megabit below the
And just in case you weren't thinking about grabbing a pitchfork
and marching toward the offices of
Time Warner Cable
(CMCSA), Hong Kong -- the worldwide leader in both download and
upload speeds -- averages 71.03 Mbps down, 58.74 up. That's roughly
3.5 times faster than our download speeds and over nine times
faster than our uploads.
Just think about that the next time you can't get YouTube to stop
Despite President Obama's lofty plan to increase Internet speeds
across the country and link 99% of American students to high-speed
Wi-Fi in five years, our connections remain as sluggish and
exorbitantly priced as ever.
In New York City,
(VZ) FIOS offers a "triple-play" package with bundled Internet
speeds of 15 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up for a ridiculous $70 a month.
Comparatively, in South Korea, you can get speeds of 100 Mbps for
both uploads and downloads -- as well as phone and TV access -- for
roughly $35 a month.
Invariably, the multibillion dollar telecoms always blame America's
land area as a deterrent for high-speed access. The way these
companies put it, they couldn't possibly provide gigabit
connections for everyone -- let alone improve their existing
infrastructures so they aren't "forced" to implement data caps.
But subscribers need only look at the number of choices they have
in cable providers in their area to realize the actual reason why
we rank 31st: a total lack of competition.
Susan Crawford, a tech analyst and professor at Cardozo Law School
in New York City, believes Internet access should be considered a
public utility, similar to gas and electricity -- with all the
variety and choices therein. Crawford sees a connection to the web
as essential as heat and water to a home.
However, in her book,
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New
, Crawford argues that the lack of choice in Web and cable
providers creates a broadband market dominated by high prices and
infrastructures that are seldomly improved, if ever.
"In Seoul, when you move into an apartment, you have a choice of
three or four providers selling you symmetric fiber access for $30
per month, and installation happens in one day," Crawford said in
. "That's unthinkable in the United States. And the idea that the
country that invented the Internet can't get online is beyond my
Google has highlighted the woeful lack of competition in Web
providers by offering up affordable gigabit connections in Kansas
City and Austin. Although it's not offering not the rock-bottom
prices you'd find in Seoul, Google grabbed the fretful attention of
Time Warner Cable in Kansas City, which literally had Time Warner
knocking on customers' doors begging them not to switch.
Unfortunately, it's unlikely the majority of us will revel in the
that is a whimpering and desperate cable provider. Google has said
it doesn't have immediate plans to roll out Google Fiber
nationwide, and analysts say the cost isn't scalable or
economically feasible. (See:
Google Fiber Isn't the Telco-Dropping Sucker
Punch We Need It to Be
So until the unthinkable happens and we all have a choice in which
company supplies our Internet access, we'll keep paying through the
nose for sluggish speeds and gritting our teeth with every study
that ranks us below the Republic of Moldova.
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