America has ranked a worrying 20th in the world for its internet speed with an average of 15.3 Mbps, beaten by the likes of Japan, Latvia and Norway. Research shows that South Korea has the world’s fastest internet with speeds of 29 Mbps, more than double the United States.
According to Webpage FX, the global internet speed average is 5 Mbps, which means America is way above the benchmark. However, although coming 20th out of 196 countries in the world might not seem that bad, for a superpower like the United States it demonstrates a lack of innovation and technological supremacy.
Cnet states that millions of Americans are struggling with sluggish internet connections and more than six million households across the United States are stuck with speeds of 10 Mbps on average. A further 25 million people have speeds faster than 10 Mbps but slower than 25 Mbps, the national target for speed.
According to Pacific Standard, the issues are down to inadequate infrastructure and the need for improving services delivered. “America has two historic networks in place. The first is full of the copper wires that made up the original telephone network. Slowly, these began to be replaced by coaxial cable, a copper core with insulation around it, to provide better and quicker signal transmission. These two systems are how most of our Internet is still connected, and, in today’s age, they’re both ancient technology.”
To help tackle these issues and bring the country in-line with other developed nations, the Obama administration began its National Broadband Plan in 2010. The plan involved a “deployment of more than 100,000 miles of Internet infrastructure, and has been a huge reason why speeds in the U.S. have recently tripled.” However, these plans are slow on the uptake, because the government can only do so much at one time.
The National Broadband Plan sets out to ensure 100 million Americans are connected to the internet with speeds of 100 Mbps by 2025. To date, it is estimated that just over 20 million are connected at this speed, and critics say the target is looking unrealistic.
The new measures implemented by the government have been a boost, but there is still so much more to come. Final infrastructure work is desperately needed to improve internet speed, this is known throughout telecommunications as “Last Mile,” and it’s where the greatest slowdown occurs.
According to Pacific Standards, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner have a “natural monopoly” over internet services and although “the Telecommunications Act of 1996 attempted to incentivize competition to upset these established businesses, it didn’t consider the near impossibility of doing so.”
Fiber lines have been laid in some states, Comcast has lines in Tennessee and Nashville, and Google Fiber is entering the market offering reasonably priced high speed internet connections with speeds as high as 1,000 Mbps. So, the future is bright, it’s just making sure we can get there quickly and more efficiently.
The UK is currently ranked 23rd in the world, Australia 50th and China 111th, making America’s ranking not look so bad in comparison. It will take bold actions by those in power to bring the United States’ internet infrastructure in-line with the world’s top ten nations, and to ensure our digital future is also worthy of a superpower.