US Works Its Way Up To The Middle Of The Pack In Broadband Speed
from the US-broadband-providers-continue-to-lead-with-fearless-mediocrity dept
The more statistics are gathered on broadband speed, the more evidence accumulates that the United States' lack of true broadband competition is holding this country back. Karl Bode at DSLreports points to the latest data gathered by Ookla, which shows the US is still lagging behind several countries in connection speed.
According to the latest Speedtest.net data from Ookla, the United States has fallen to 31 in mean downstream broadband speed, behind such countries as Uruguay, Estonia, and Latvia. Ookla notes they collect the data from millions of user connections, measuring the "rolling mean throughput in Mbps over the past 30 days where the mean distance between the client and the server is less than 300 miles."As Bode points out, part of this is due to the geographic sprawl of the United States. Many of the countries listed above the US (Malta, Macau, Luxembourg) are exponentially smaller than the US. But that's not the entire story. Countries with comparable sizes rank near the US in speed. One is Russia (#35), whose infrastructure is still hit-and-miss (but still a bit of an overachiever). The other is Canada (#37), a country with its own competitive issues.
Even weighing those factors, the lack of competition is still the main contributor to these under-performing speeds. As Bode notes, the speed results are also low because many customers don't purchase the fastest tier available. Again, this is because faster tiers are prohibitively expensive for most users. If other countries are obtaining better speed results, their customers are being offered faster speeds at affordable prices.
Not only are Americans connecting at subpar speeds, but they're not even getting what they've paid for. Ookla's "Promise Index" compares actual speeds with advertised speeds. According to its numbers, the US ranks 28th in the world. The actual percentage isn't terrible (92.95%) but it is another sign that there's a reason every advertised broadband package contains those two special words, "up to."
There doesn't seem to be much improvement on the horizon, either. Time Warner Cable is for sale and it's made it clear its preferred buyer is none other than Comcast, a cable company that routinely finishes towards the "top" of Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" polls. This would effectively give Comcast one-third of the national broadband market. This purchase would need approval from regulators (the DoJ and the FCC), but these agencies have been talked into very questionable "consolidations" in the past.
If the broadband market's ever going to improve, it needs more players. The incumbents have spent several years building up roadblocks to discourage new competitors. Google's fiber efforts may be spurring very belated improvements in limited markets, but it's hardly the answer. Without some sort of large-scale disruption, we're likely looking at rising costs, stagnant speeds and a push by providers to preferred high-margin services and the steady creep of customer-unfriendly usage caps.