Two-thirds of U.S. Internet users lack fast broadband

Two-thirds of U.S. Internet connections are slower than 5 Mbps, putting the United States well behind speed leaders South Korea and Japan.

The United States places ninth in the world in access to "high broadband connectivity," at 34% of users, including 27% of connections reaching 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps and 7% reaching above 10 Mbps, Akamai says in its latest State of the Internet Report. That's an improvement since a year ago, when the United States was in 12th place with only 24% of users accessing fast connections. But the United States is still dwarfed by South Korea, where 72% of Internet connections are greater than 5 Mbps, and Japan, which is at 60%. Hong Kong and Romania are the only other countries or regions to hit the 50% mark.

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Worldwide, 22% of Internet connections are 5 Mbps or greater, according to Akamai.

The United States ranked even worse in providing connections greater than 2 Mbps. Although 74% of U.S. connections reach this threshold, that's good for only 39th place in the world, out of 200 or so countries and regions. Monaco, Tunisia and the Isle of Man lead the way with at least 95% of users surfing the Web at 2 Mbps speeds.

The U.S. government in April 2009 created the National Broadband Plan with the goal of "bringing the power and promise of broadband to us all."

"Broadband in America is not all it needs to be," the government initiative's Web site states. "Approximately 100 million Americans do not have broadband at home. Broadband-enabled health information technology (IT) can improve care and lower costs by hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, yet the United States is behind many advanced countries in the adoption of such technology. Broadband can provide teachers with tools that allow students to learn the same course material in half the time, but there is a dearth of easily accessible digital educational content required for such opportunities. A broadband-enabled Smart Grid could increase energy independence and efficiency, but much of the data required to capture these benefits are inaccessible to consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs. And nearly a decade after 9/11, our first responders still lack a nationwide public safety mobile broadband communications network, even though such a network could improve emergency response and homeland security."

Akamai's numbers, released Monday in the quarterly State of the Internet report, is based on 533 million unique IP addresses from 233 countries and regions that accessed the Akamai network in the third quarter of 2010. Although two-thirds of U.S. connections are below 5 Mbps, there are enough fast connections to bring the United States' average speed up to the 5 Mbps mark. South Korea leads the way in this category as well, with the average user enjoying speeds of 14 Mbps.

While the FCC defines broadband as download speeds meeting or exceeding 4 Mbps, Akamai defines broadband as 2 Mbps and greater and high broadband as 5 Mbps and greater.

Within the United States, Delaware leads the way at 64% of Internet connections hitting the high broadband mark, with New Hampshire and Rhode Island also surpassing 50%. The District of Columbia and Massachusetts round out the top five at 47% and 45%, respectively, according to Akamai.

"Ideally, these positive trends in high broadband adoption will continue to increase over time, especially as additional funding for broadband programs is awarded by the United States government," Akamai said. "In July, $795 million in 'broadband expansion grants' was awarded to projects in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, $1.2 billion in funding was awarded by the Rural Utilities Service in August, mostly for rural DSL and wireless expansion."

The Akamai report also details Internet attack traffic patterns, which show the United States accounting for an increasing share of Internet attacks, with 12% of all attack traffic originating from this country.

"The United States remained in first place during this period, responsible for nearly one-eighth of the observed attack traffic -- slightly more than in the prior quarter," Akamai writes.

Previously, the United States accounted for 11% of worldwide attack traffic. Russia, meanwhile, dropped from 10% to 8.9% and China dropped from 11% to 8.2%.

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This story, "Two-thirds of U.S. Internet users lack fast broadband" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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