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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 4:46am

    If the cable company promises speeds of up to 20 meg, I should be allowed to pay up to $49.95.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 6:36am

      Re:

      If the cable company promises speeds of up to 20 meg, I should be allowed to pay up to $49.95.

      Half the time the cable company should be paying me for troubleshooting their crappy website/network. I can't even count the number of times I called them to let them know that their network was down in my area, only to be told that it is a problem with my modem (since they can't ping it.) No shit, Sherlock, your network is down. I can connect to the modem just fine, and can do a ping just fine, and your head-end is responding just fine. Your router isn't. An hour and a half later, they finally reboot their router and low-and-behold, the network is back up and running.

      The latest crap with them is their website billing software, which is already buggy, says I owe them $0.00 this month (yippee.) "No more paper bills, because our online billing system is awesome," when it works. So I contact them, and explain that their billing system isn't working, and they ask me for the pin which is on my latest bill on their billing system. Might be nice though, if I could figure out a way to not pay them this month since my bill says I don't owe them anything, but something tells me I'd get cut off.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      That One Guy (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 6:49am

      Penny Arcade did a comic on that actually

      Gabe: I increased my bandwidth to thirty megabits, but I'm not getting that.

      Tech-support hydra: How much are you getting?

      G: Less.

      G: I guess I don't understand this. I thought I was paying for thirty megs... of bits.

      TSH: Sir, technically you're paying for up to thirty megabits.

      G: Well, that's fucking fascinating.

      G: Maybe when my bill comes, I'll pay up to the full amount. Could be less! Could be a lot less.

      TSH: Failure to pay could result in the cancellation of your internet service.

      G: HOW WOULD I KNOW?

      *Link for those that want to read the comic itself:
      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/05/01

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Prashanth (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 6:31am

    56K Modem

    Your 56K modem actually connects at 56K! Collect $50 million.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Guardian, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 7:28am

    christmas spirit

    ....spying all the way.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Cdaragorn (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 7:41am

    Data problems...

    While I agree with what the article is saying, something seems off with the claims made by DSLreports.

    It claims we're behind Uruguay? I lived in Uruguay for 2 years, in several different areas of that country both inside the main city of Montevideo and in the countryside, and I can firmly tell you that almost no one there has internet in their home. They all go to internet cafe's to use the internet.

    It makes perfect sense for a business to have a faster internet connection than a personal home does, so I'm just saying that they seem to be coming to a conclusion without really looking at some of the reasons why the countries might show a higher speed then we typically have here.

    I agree that ISP's in the US are not competing at all and that it is causing a major lag in the speeds we have available here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    Truth in advertising soon to hit ISPs!

    In other news, regulation to require ISPs to provide true speeds and inform consumers about data caps in their advertising has been met by much resistance from ISPs.

    Comcast is quoted as saying "Having to quote the actual speed a consumer will get is too complicated. Additionally, if we are forced to let consumers know that there are caps in a transparent way before they sign we are put at a competitive disadvantage."

    So as usual regulators have offered to allow the ISPs to do whatever they want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    I'm astonished with the Brazilian scenario. 10mbit are pretty much mainstream now and at least in the metropolitan areas the speeds delivered actually exceed the plan max bandwidth. Of course when you add smaller cities things get ugly.

    I've got a 50mbit offer recently with 20 (or was it 25?) mbit upload that actually deliver over 110% of what my plan allows (for the downstream, since I'm not sure about the upload I won't risk any value). No data caps.

    The issue with smaller cities, and by smaller I mean in the range of 500 thousand inhabitants and less, is precisely the lack of competition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Skeptical Cynic (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 8:38am

      Re:

      Ninja,

      I have actually been in Comcast test areas in Georgia and have gotten 10 times (no joke) the speed both upload and download I was paying for, but then they extended the bandwidth to others and it dropped.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 8:37am

    They finally understood the "hardships" of watching HD porn that keeps on "BUFFERING!!!!!!"----- kidding (for the most part).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anon, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    SpeedTest

    SpeedTest.Net(Ookla) isn't always accurate. When looking at my real time network usage, at no point does my network bandwidth go over 25mb/s, but the speed test result claims 60mb.

    This seems to be a per test server thing as most are within 50%. My ISP's speed test actually does reflect the speed I see on my network, so that's nice to know they're not messing with things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    Canada eh... who

    Canada is beat out by Estonia... that's because we got technically challenged ISP's like Telus, Bell and Shaw who control the market with their 1920's technology. Hey guy's we are into cell phones, wi-fi, media streaming... time to get some competition so that we will maybe get decent technology instead of slick ads and promises of a gizillion inch tv if you sign a life time contract for their old technology... trash the ads guys just 'build it and they will come' and you won't have to waste so much of customer's money on useless crap instead of doing the needed infrastructure upgrades... we've already paid you too much for the crappy service you provide!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    tell me one industry in the USA that is actually competitive? there are so few players in every industry that competitiveness is impossible, because all the top boys from each company go round to each others house for barbeques and ball games! while there is also this inevitable crossing of lines with politicians who are 'encouraged' in the only way possible to make sure there is no new companies on the scene and therefore no new competition, how is there going to be any improvement?
    every single industry in the USA is given special treatment to remain exactly as they are, stuck in the dark ages, making phenomenal profits for absolutely piss fucking poor services that will never change until bribery and corruption at the governmental level is eliminated! as that will never happen, nor will any competitiveness, lowering of prices, increase in service or anything else.
    what the USA has is exactly what these incumbent companies have paid so much for, stagnating business models! that is also why there are so many 'Trade Negotiations' instigated by the USA, so as to drag back down the other nations that are actually improving in all ways, taking advantage of the latest technology and encouraging as many innovations as possible. for that to happen in the USA, someone would have to get all the business heads, aged about 55 +, line them against the wall and dispose of them! until that happens, the only thing the USA is going to excel at is how to spy on it's own, how to spy on it's friends, how to threaten any nation that gets ahead in the 'any field you can think of' game and how to ensure the world just passes it by!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    JOHNNY CANADA, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 9:38am

    NSA

    If internet speed increase the NSA will have to hire speed readers to keep up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Jardinero1 (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    People get the speed they want.

    In most metros you can purchase any download speed you desire. Most people do. The fact that most people choose to buy lower speeds at the pricepoint they desire is a feature not a bug.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      nasch (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

      Re: People get the speed they want.

      The fact that most people choose to buy lower speeds at the pricepoint they desire is a feature not a bug.

      If prices for faster tiers are high due to lack of competition, that's a bug.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 12:49pm

      Re: People get the speed they want.

      So you're arguing that flagrant gouging is a feature?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 12:50am

    Many of the countries listed above the US (Malta, Macau, Luxembourg) are exponentially smaller than the US.


    That word - it does not mean what you think it means.
    Hint: if you don't know what it is exponential with regard to (i.e. the independent variable), then it is not exponential.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      nasch (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 8:06am

      Re:

      That word - it does not mean what you think it means.

      Unfortunately many people use "exponentially" to mean "a lot".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        John Fenderson (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 9:05am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah. It's still not as bad as saying "literally" when they mean "figuratively", though. :)

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          nasch (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 9:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's still not as bad as saying "literally" when they mean "figuratively", though.

          I literally hate it that whatever dictionary that was decided to change the definition of literally to include just adding emphasis. I thought it was a recent development, but apparently it's been done for hundreds of years.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 1:44am

    Canada has no excuse either for most people. Half of our Countries population lives in a very concentrated area of southern Ontario.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This