American Internet speeds still lag many in Asia and Europe, Akamai finds

Stacks of networking switches in one rack of the DETER testbed at the USC Information Sciences Institute.
Stacks of networking switches in one rack of the DETER testbed at the USC Information Sciences Institute.

Despite ambitious plans by private companies and governments to boost broadband adoption, the United States’ average Internet connection speed is still slower than speeds in many other countries.

Cambridge-based Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report found the average US connection speed to be 11.7 megabits per second last quarter, around half the speed of top-ranked South Korea. Akamai, which helps Web companies boost their loading speeds by distributing Web files to locations that are closer to end users, compiled the information from the trillions of data transfers its network makes every quarter.

The US metrics barely budged in the last year, rising slightly from an average speed of 11.4 Mbps, past Akamai reports show. And eight months after the FCC increased the standard for broadband download speeds from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps, at least 10 percent of Akamai traffic cleared that threshold in just five locations: the District of Columbia, Delaware, Utah, Washington, and Massachusetts.

A fourth of South Korean connections hit that benchmark, and the figure was around a sixth in second-ranked Hong Kong.

There are lots of different ways to measure Internet speeds. Download speeds are often faster than upload speeds, peak speeds are different from average speeds, and including mobile connections in one dataset can make it look very different from another. Several other measurements exist: Netflix reports how fast it delivers movies and TV shows to different groups of customers, while the company Ookla reports results from its website Speedtest.net, and the federal government has its own standard.

Among states, Akamai said Massachusetts connections were the third-fastest, averaging 15.3 Mbps. After its connection speeds grew 42 percent in the last year, D.C. led the list, with average connection speeds of 19 Mbps in the nation’s capital, while Delaware conections averaged 16.7 Mbps.

Compared to the rest of the world, the US connections are still pretty fast, topping every other country in the Americas. The global average connection speed was just 5.1 Mbps, less than half the US average, although that’s 17 percent higher than last year.