It’s normal to complain about your internet speed. After all, when the kids are all streaming high-definition videos and playing games and downloading who knows what, everything gets kind of clogged up. And if you’re in a suburb or a rural area, your neighborhood may not have a great connection, so on a Friday or Saturday evening, when everyone’s trying to watch things at the same time, it all gets painfully slow. But can we really expect better? Isn’t that just the way things are? After all, we have the best internet infrastructure in the world, right?
According to recent data, the US is rated 30th in the world for broadband speeds. That puts us behind Asian tech powerhouses like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. That may not surprise you, but here’s the real shocker: Romanians, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, Moldovans and Russians have faster internet than we do – upload and download.
Related Article: Ranking the World’s Fastest (& Slowest) Internet Speeds
In Hong Kong, the fastest Internet in the world, the average download speed is nearly 82Mbps. Here in the US, we barely average 20Mbps. Many households struggle to hit a real average of 5Mbps. Even Latvians can stream movies or download games twice as fast as we can.
And we’re falling back. Six months ago, the US was ranked 25th. Now we’ve been overtaken by Spain, Lichtenstein, and Estonia, among others. Those countries are investing heavily in broadband infrastructure, knowing that it’s vital to education, to economic recovery, and to personal satisfaction. Other countries are introducing city-wide free wi-fi in major areas, and seeing a major boost to productivity, tourism and the resulting financial benefits. Meanwhile, the US continues to stagnate, allowing a few massive ISPs to monopolize the market, and providing no incentive for improvement. Not only that – they want to be able to artificially slow down your Internet and provide better service only to content providers who are prepared to pay extra. That’s what the net neutrality argument is all about.
To really add insult to injury, our internet is more expensive than most of our faster competitors. We pay on average $55/month for our mediocre connection: in Hong Kong, they’re paying around half that for four times the bandwidth. We’re nearly five times more expensive than Russia or Ukraine per megabit.
In 2013, FCC figures showed that 112 million Americans still had no access to the Internet at home. In 30% of those cases, there simply is no Internet service. For most of the rest, they cannot afford $600 or more per year to access what is rapidly becoming a basic service. Our Internet is overpriced and underperforming.
It’s unacceptable that the USA should lag so far behind former Eastern bloc countries in terms of technological infrastructure. We spearheaded the Internet. We should be showing other countries how it should be done.