U.S. Bounds Ahead on Broadband Proliferation

Though the U.S. still trails other parts of the world in deployment of high-speed broadband, all is not lost. According to the latest State of the Internet report from content delivery player Akamai, the nation’s broadband penetration is on the rise.

Akamai found that U.S. broadband connections — defined as connections at 5 megabits per second (Mb/sec) or faster — grew in number by 29 percent, compared to the previous quarter.

“I think the U.S. growth rate is something we expected,” David Belson, Akamai’s director of market intelligence and author of the report, told InternetNews.com. “If you look at the money being spent to build out the fiber to the home infrastructure, and if you look at the competitive deals that are going on, vendors are trying hard to make it affordable and ‘outspeed’ each other.”

Despite such efforts, the country still sits sixth on Akamai’s list of the most widely broadband-enabled counties, with only 26 percent of U.S. Internet connections having been clocked at speeds of 5Mb/sec or greater. South Korea continues to hold the top spot with 64 percent of its Internet user’s connection at speeds of 5 Mb/sec or greater.

Belson isn’t optimistic that the U.S. will catch up to South Korea any time soon, either.

“We’ll expect to see connection speeds grow rapidly in the future since we’re at only a quarter of the connections that we’re seeing from the U.S. being at 5Mb/sec,” Belson said. “There is still a long way to grow.”

Belson attributed the large percentage of broadband deployments in South Korea were the combined result of population density and government intervention. In South Korea, a large portion of the population lives in apartment buildings, which makes wiring large groups of people easier.

Likewise, its government has taken a proactive stance on rolling out high-speed connectivity. Whether the winner of the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S. will push for similar proliferation — supporting much-discussed efforts like wiring rural communities — remains uncertain, he added.

“Does the new leadership of the Unites States have the opportunity to put some money where their mouth is?” Belson said. “Absolutely. Will they fund rural broadband? Unlikely.”

Given the nature of the market, I don’t think we’ll see 60 to 70 percent high-speed broadband penetration in the U.S. for quite some time,” he added.

Closer to home

While the U.S. as a whole continues to get faster, the State of California actually slipped in the rankings, despite its huge IT and high technology industries. Belson noted that California came in 21st in the nation, with its 7 percent growth rate over first quarter having been outpaced by other states’ growing broadband infrastructures. In Akamai’s last report, California ranked 17th.

Once again, the tiny state of Delaware led the U.S. in broadband penetration, a fact that Belson attributed to some of the same factors that also made South Korea the leader globally — namely, comparatively high population density. About 66 percent of all traffic from Delaware came from broadband connections.

Akamai, a leader in Internet content distribution, is in prime position to assess the status of the U.S.’s infrastructure, since it has servers based at the edge of the Internet in locations across the country and throughout the world. It examined some 346 million unique IP addresses to compile its most recent report.

Its position also enables it to provide some insight into attack traffic that also radiates across the Internet. In the report, it said some 400 unique ports were targeted by attackers, representing a nearly 20-times increase over first quarter.

Though a greater number ports were attacked, most of the attacks — 85 percent — hit only the top ten ports. The most-often attacked port during the quarter was TCP Port 445, with over 28 percent of all traffic. The port is often used Windows SMB traffic, and has been targeted in the past by worms like Sasser to propagate.

By the same token, Belson noted that most other ports experienced a relatively low volume of attacks.

“It’s more spurious traffic or port scanning then being a well coordinated attack across more ports,” Belson said.

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