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.

Filed Under: broadband, competition, prices, speeds, us


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2020 @ 9:51am

    I'm afraid the us is slipping into third world status, hope someone is protecting all those weapons their military has.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2020 @ 9:59am

    The most surprising part is that the US was still in the top 10 until recently.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 1:25am

      Re:

      "The most surprising part is that the US was still in the top 10 until recently."

      Well, no. Bear in mind that the major US ISP's do provide bandwidth aplenty. That the networks (and consumers) are plagued with jitter, massive latency, data caps which simply aren't present in may other countries isn't counted in the statistics. The ISP's have been very inventive to present their performance in the best possible way they can, there not really being any interest from the FCC to implement any form of stringency in the applied standard.

      It's like the US 4G which uses seriously downgraded technology but still counts as 4G despite barely working.

      What might be surprising is rather that US ISP's have gone to the limit of how they can finagle the numbers - to the point where the rating actually starts to slide.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 15 Jun 2020 @ 10:53am

    But wasn't this supposed to be part of Infrastructure Week #5, 6, 9, 14, 16, 33, 45, 48, 53, 54 and 55 of the current administration?! /s

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

  • identicon
    James Dorcan, 15 Jun 2020 @ 11:09am

    Or is speedtest results flawed? Afterall the major tier-1 telecom pays ookla (aka speedtest) to advertise their #1 positions.

    Now broadbandnow competitor to speedtest shows completely different results: https://broadbandnow.com/fastest-providers

    The fastest ISP in the US ranks #1 with speeds of over 7 gigabytes ... well beyond Europe!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2020 @ 11:18am

      Re:

      "Average" broadband speeds. "Average". Not the country with the single fastest provider.

      Reading comprehension is a thing.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 15 Jun 2020 @ 11:38am

      Re:

      The fastest ISP in the US ranks #1 with speeds of over 7 gigabytes ... well beyond Europe!

      I think you mean 7 Gbps, but I'm afraid your comparison is meaningless in this instance. Your example of 7 Gbps is for Stealth Networks that are only available in New York, not the whole of USA. But if you feel it's relevant, where I work we have about 10 times that capacity - and it's not in the USA.

      Now, is this interesting from the perspective of the average consumer? Not at all. It's like making a comparison who have the fastest car - not really relevant for someone who want to buy something that gets him to work in the morning and back home at dinnertime again.

      There will always be edge-cases which aren't relevant on the whole.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2020 @ 3:45pm

      Re:

      That 'fastest provider' serves a very small subset of the New-York Area that serves 98 zip codes (sounds big, right - out of ... 41,702 nationwide zip codes, or .235% of the country, not even a quarter percent...) for astronomical prices (remember the US is #1f, We are #1, We are #1 in the highest prices we pay, not exactly the thing to brag about unless you are some spoiled rich elite).

      If you happen to live in one of those 98 zip codes you 'may' be able to get service (remember, serving one house in a zip code counts as serving the full zip code, so they probably have 2-3 main areas, and then 1 or 2 links to nearby zip codes just to be able to claim they do)

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 1:41am

      Re:

      "The fastest ISP in the US ranks #1 with speeds of over 7 gigabytes ... well beyond Europe!"

      I dare you to actually get 7G speeds out of it consistently on anything other than two servers placed at either end of the main network backbone. Broadbandnow competitor uses the officially bandwidth numbers provided by the ISP's themselves.

      Speedtest, otoh, uses the actual achievable bandwidth to provide results. Showing just why US ISP's and telcos are considered the most hated of US companies. Shit service, unstable connections and a "help line" so bad the strategy it practices appears to be to get people to hang up and stop calling out of sheer frustration. Not like most people in the US have an alternative provider.

      What speedtest doesn't do from that test alone is establishing connection failures, packet loss, jitter and latency however. And those are major factors in why american ISP's are so hated. Decrepit networks, 20 year old switches and routers, etc. And that's where many other countries have advantage.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2020 @ 11:53am

    'US Falls Out Of Top 10 Fastest Broadband Speeds'

    wow! who doctored the figures and how did they do it, to put the US in the Top 10 list in the first place? considering the lies and the bullshit put out about speeds and the lack of checking by the FCC, for obvious reasons, i find it hard to believe we were actually in the top 10!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2020 @ 12:24pm

    Meanwhile, over at the FCC...

    Ajit's boys are saying they doubt whether SpaceX starlink can deliver a sub-100ms latency, so they don't want to award any of the bounty offered to those who promise to deliver to underserved (rural) areas. Note that I worte "promise to" not "will".

    A simple calculation: the starlink satellites are at about 350 km up. A message has to go up to the satellite then down to a ground station that links to the backbone. The reply has to do the revers trip. Satellites won't be directly overhead. For easy numbers, let's say the total path is 1500 km. Speed of electro-magnetic radiation is close to 300,000 km/s. So the round-trip path delay introduced by the satellite comms will be in the order 1/200 seconds, or 5 ms. So the FCC is claiming that the comms to the server (same time as terrestrial comms) plus translation time to and from the satellite transmissions plus internal satellite delays) will exceed 95 milliseconds. Not believable. The only reasonable source for all that delay would be shared by terrestrial links, which would make any ISP's attempt to get below 100 ms dubious to say the least.

    So the FCC is attempting to dole out billions to Ajit's buddies and lock SpaceX out of most of it, for the next ten years. I strongly suspect if it goes that way, SpaceX will deliver far more connections to underserved areas than the recipients will. Instead the old-school ISPs will renege on their promises (again), without returning a cent, and probably use SpaceX for making rural services uneconomical for terrestrial provider as their excuse for doing so.

    Good news, folks, you no longer have to travel to the third world to find a country with rampant government corruption. Most of you live there.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Jun 2020 @ 12:56pm

    We got into the top 10?? wow.

    For a nation dedicated tot he propaganda of being the #1 in everything.
    Food
    Cellphone
    Cable TV
    MEDICAL
    Export of food stocks
    PRICES..
    Capitalism and competition..

    WE stopped competing long ago.
    When for some strange reasoning, we had to pay for the best of this and that, but mostly for our Owner/Boss/CEO then we did for anything else.
    Its a strange thing to push an economy UP, when there is little reason to do such a thing. The Gov. back in the old days tended to want Employment over wages. Even with abit of unemployment, it was Kinda balanced. And that Most corps that did Good, Spread the wealth around to many employees, NOT just the top boss's and CEO.
    Whats entertaining most of this, is HOW many of the corps in the past failed. Or there idea of making money with USA employee and USA materials went By-by, and they Moved out of the USA to locations with less Environmental protection, lower material costs, and Employee's with NO RIGHTS.
    The ones that HAD to stay, and take over became fewer, but the restrictions changed to bring others back, but WHO is getting the high wages? Who is paying for the Material costs?
    There arnt many Metals made in the USA now. They are for specific companies, and a good share of them are exported. So we are left with plastics and Trying to make them NOT pollute. But we have most of that from imports from countries that have not figured out WHY we dont use it.
    What is our problem?
    To many. To many of the Corps from the bottom tot he top have Cut employee due to a few things, Most of which is modernization. You dont need 10,000 people to dig the Materials out anymore. But the prices never went down. The Gov has done the same things, Cut corners, Cut personnel, and give the corps/rich money. Dont balance anything from the lower paid to the top paid.

    Something Iv mentioned to friends int he past. There are many ways to wage war. You dont need tanks and guns and bombs. If you can control the food(we export over 60%), control an economy(love that stock market and its change on WHEN a corp needs to buy back all those stocks)(est Forced evaluation of USA corps is over 100 times the amount of money in the world, how can they do that?)
    Stupidity(not teaching people Enough to know they CAN do something about it)
    Even police(not knowing the laws and Who pays their wages)
    Then to Politics, and the same comment as the police(who pays your wages) And that the People dont get to evaluate what you have done, and base your WAGE on your states Support.

    Slowing taking the Control away from the people, and placing it in the hands of those who have the money, in 1 form or another is Fascism..

    Capitalism is abit Ruptured, and many of its lies are abounding. They dont like to compete. It loves to ravage other nations. It takes advantage of everything it can.

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

  • icon
    tz1 (profile), 15 Jun 2020 @ 2:13pm

    Geography matters

    I can't even drive on the interstates around here without dropped calls and dead zones dozens of miles long. I don't have dakota to idaho 1X or 3G/EVDO. But I hear they are tearing down the existing 3G so they can make room for 5G in the big cities. It would be more interesting to compare big cities, London to Paris to NYC to LA.

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

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 17 Jun 2020 @ 8:27am

    "...with South Korea taking the top spot at 88 Mbps."

    For some reason I'm picturing Christopher Lloyd dancing about and shouting in triumphant glee in an empty parking lot at night.

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


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