US Falls Out Of Top 10 Fastest Broadband Speeds
from the good-job,-everybody dept
For all of the talk about being #1, America’s broadband networks are routinely mediocre. The U.S. consistently ranks among the middle of the pack in speeds and overall availability, while Americans continue to pay some of the highest prices in the developed world for both fixed and mobile broadband. The reasons aren’t mysterious: we’ve let a bunch of telecom monopolies not only dominate the sector, we’ve allowed their corrupt influence over state and federal lawmakers and regulators to become so pronounced, they dictate most US telecom policy and literally write the law. Both with a relentless focus on hamstringing competition.
We then stand around with a dumb look on our collective faces, wondering what went wrong. Rinse, wash, repeat.
This week, the US had the honor of falling out of the top ten nations in terms of average broadband speeds. The data, gleaned from Speedtest.net’s Global Index, indicates that the United States is now 11th, behind behind Macau, Denmark, and Sweden. Not a great showing given the countless billions in subsidies thrown at providers to shore up coverage, and the endless lip service (see: FCC boss Ajit Pai’s breathless supposed dedication to curing the digital divide) US policy makers have thrown at the problem for the better part of the last twenty years.
Historically, we adore blaming our failures on this front on things like geography, insisting the only reason the United States is so mediocre at broadband is because it’s just so big. But after decades of mediocrity, and billions in monopoly tax breaks and subsidization, that excuse long ago became hollow. Especially when you notice that the US is now ranked 33rd in average mobile download speeds, behind even larger countries like China:
“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.”
Keep in mind that Speedtest data has largely been criticized for being overly generous, so it’s very likely that US rankings are even worse. These rankings also don’t address the other primary result of muted competition and rampant state and federal corruption: sky high prices.
For decades now, the US telecom industry has employed an entire cottage industry of PR firms, lobbyists, think tankers, consultants, and others, all dedicated to trying to downplaying or ignoring our national broadband mediocrity. It’s a segment of folks that has grown even louder during the pandemic, as they try to explain away the fact that some 44 million Americans still lack access to any broadband whatsoever and millions more still can’t afford service.
The reality is that US broadband is largely dominated by widely despised cable monopolies, and widely despised phone companies that can’t be bothered to repair or upgrade their networks. And they don’t try very hard because they don’t face any competition, and they’ve effectively bribed the lion’s share of Congress and regulators into feckless obedience. Instead of embracing policies that encourage smaller competitors, we routinely neuter regulators at the behest of AT&T and Comcast. About the only thing we’re truly good at here is going out of our way to pretend this isn’t a problem.