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Size of Country a Big Factor in Internet Speed Ranking

January 9, 2015

Blue and red fibre optical cablesAccording to the most recent quarterly report from Akamai Technologies, the average peak Internet speed in the U.S. increased 35 percent between the third quarter of 2013 and 2014.

Unfortunately, the report also found the U.S. ranks 17th in the world in terms of average speed with several smaller and less wealthy countries, including Romania, Latvia and Uruguay, ranking higher than U.S. and making more significant gains between 2013 and 2014.

We expect supporters of government-owned networks (GONs) to cite that latter figure as evidence that the U.S. should allow more cities and states to own and operate their own broadband systems. Indeed, the Akamai report itself indicates an openness to GONs.

However, while the U.S. should not settle for 17th, it would be misguided and somewhat dishonest for GONs supporters to use the Akamai data to push for more public involvement.

That’s because a simple ranking doesn’t give the full story about these countries or the difficulty of providing access in them.

As Xconomy reports, there is a simple reason why several of the nations on Akamai’s list rank ahead of the U.S.

That reason is size.

Xcnomy writer Curt Woodward explains, “It’s relatively easier to deliver a uniformly fast Internet in a smaller nation with fewer people and smaller land mass …” Woodward also notes that smaller, more densely-populated U.S. states are doing much better than many of the countries at the top of Akamai’s list. For example, Delaware’s average peak speed was 75.7 mbps.

If Delaware were a country it would rank third on Akamai’s list.

While Delaware does not have a law on the books setting limits on government-owned broadband networks, several of the U.S. states with the top average peak broadband speeds do, including Utah (#7), Virginia (#6) and Washington (#5). At the very least, that fact indicates that prudent GON restrictions can help protect taxpayers and local economies without harming broadband consumers.