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If you have a broadband Internet connection (wired or wireless), you’ve got two main concerns: cost per month and speed. Faster networks mean quicker downloads and easier uploads, and over time they help minimize your use of bandwidth, which could save you money, depending on your provider. But despite the growing availability of high-speed fiber optic connections in the United States, the country’s network infrastructure may not measure up to other nations. What is the average US Internet speed, and how does it stack up worldwide?
Internet speeds are an estimation of how many megabits (one million bits) of data can be downloaded in one second. For example, a 10 megabit connection — or 10 Mbps — allows you to download 10 million bits of information in a single second. It’s important to remember, however, that when providers report speeds they’re usually talking about the maximum download rate possible, not the average. Heavy server traffic or technical glitches can severely hamper performance (remember: the purpose of performing a speed test is to determine how fast the data transfer is on your computer or network).
Fast or Falling Behind?
So what’s the average US Internet speed? According to CNN, the typical American connection speed is 8.6 Mbps. This is up 27 percent from 2012, and if you live in certain parts of the country, such as Vermont, expect a better-than-average 12.7 Mbps. Other sources report higher values, around 18 Mbps, but this data comes from users who chose to run online speed tests for their connection — in other words, users who already have above-average connections.
Why the Difference?
Right now, the US ranks 9th in the world for Internet speeds, one spot down from where it ranked in 2012. There are several reasons for this less-than-optimal position, starting with country size. Places like South Korea and Japan have significantly faster connections than the US; they also have much smaller land masses and larger urban populations. “Last mile” connections — the final leg between your provider and your home — are the most crucial and most expensive to maintain, and often aren’t worth the infrastructure cost for small towns or rural communities.
In addition, the United States suffers from a lack of similarly equipped providers; depending on where you live, you may have only one or two viable choices for Internet. Countries which rank higher in average Internet speed have three, four, or more companies vying for consumer dollars, companies that are prepared to install and test connections same-day and charge a significantly lower monthly rate.
So what really is the average US Internet speed? A respectable almost-10 Mbps, better or worse depending on where you live. Ideally, improved technology and greater competition will spur quicker, more reliable connections across the nation.
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Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.