RealTime IT News

New Numbers Show U.S. Lags in Broadband

The United States continues to lag behind most industrialized nations in broadband speeds, according to a new report by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The CWA report, based on approximately 70,000 people who tested their broadband speed on the union's site, found an average U.S. speed of 1.9 megabits per second (mbps). Japan, by contrast, averages 61 mbps to top the list, followed by South Korea (45 mbps), Finland (45 mbps), Sweden (18 mbps) and Canada (7.6 mbps).

While the test is available to both dial-up and broadband users, more than 95 percent connected to the Internet with DSL or cable broadband. The CWA claims the test speeds are "largely representative of high speed" access in America.

Based on median Internet connection speeds, Rhode Island clocked in as the fastest U.S. state at 5.0 mbps. Kansas ranked second at 4.1 mbps, followed by New Jersey (3.6 mbps), New York (3.4 mbps) and Massachusetts (3.0 mbps).

The states with the slowest speeds were Alaska (0.5 mbps), South Dakota (0.8 mbps), West Virginia (1.1 mbps), Wyoming (1.2 mbps) and Iowa (1.2 mbps).

CWA President Larry Cohen cited the report as proof the U.S. needs a national broadband policy.

"The United States is the only industrialized nation without a national policy to promote universal, high-speed Internet access," Cohen said in a statement. "The grim results of the CWA Speed Test illustrate that, without a national policy, we risk losing our competitive edge in today's global economy -- and the jobs that go with it."

Cohen added the CWA is pushing Congress for approval of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's (D.-Hawaii) Broadband Data Improvement Act, would mandate an upgraded definition of "high speed" service, collection and evaluation of broadband deployment in the U.S. and grant programs for states to conduct their own broadband mapping.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) definition of high speed Internet service is currently set at 200 kbps in one direction, a speed called "too slow" by the CWA, which recommends increasing the minimum definition to two mbps downstream and one mbps upstream.

The FCC currently measures broadband availability by ZIP code. A single broadband subscriber in a ZIP counts as the entire ZIP code being served. Based on that formula, the FCC estimates DSL connections are available to 79 percent of the country and cable modem connections cover 93 percent of U.S. households.

The CWA claims the FCC metric inflates U.S. broadband penetration rates, particularly in large, rural areas.

"The first step to informed policy is good data," Cohen said. "Sound data will help policymakers establish the affordability of Internet services, identify which communities are being left behind and determine where to target policy solutions."

In April, the FCC announced it was starting an inquiry into whether high-speed Internet services are rolling out in a "reasonable and timely fashion" to Americans.

The FCC proposal also seeks information on U.S. broadband prices, upload and download speeds and price per bit transmitted. In addition, the agency is seeking information on broadband investment trends and the extent of competition among U.S. broadband providers.