Rapid climb in California’s broadband speeds and use

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The average speed at which Californians connected to Akamai’s content delivery network in the first quarter of 2016 was 16.4 Mbps, according to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report for the first quarter of 2016. Despite lagging behind U.S. leaders, that’s stilll a healthy jump from a year earlier, when the average was 13.6 Mbps, and a huge improvement over the 5.7 Mbps we were clocking five years ago – a 188% improvement.

The average Californian can and does buy faster Internet service plans as well. At the beginning of 2011, only 48% were online at 4 Mbps or better speeds. Now, the figure is 88%, nearly double (although that’s barely better than last quarter’s report). The change in higher speed connections is even more dramatic. In 2011, only 4% of Californians connected to Akamai’s network from accounts rated at 15 Mbps or better, now 37% do.

If I were to speculate about what’s driving the trend, I’d put consumer utility at the top of the list. More and more people are choosing faster Internet service plans because they’re getting more and more value from those connections. More and better infrastructure also plays a role, but that can’t account for the five year jump. More people have access to, say, 15 Mbps service now, but the increase in 15 Mbps availability has not jumped more than 700% in five years. Even in 2011, the average Californian – i.e., more than 50% – had access to at least one provider that offered service at or above that level. We just weren’t buying it to the degree we are now.

Not factored in to Akamai’s percentages are those who lack access, which is something like 4% of homes. Or have it but don’t subscribe at all. That figure has remained relatively flat over the past five years, hovering around 30% of households. It drops to near 20% if you count mobile service, but since [that’s a personal, and not a household, subscription](), it’s not the same thing. Not to mention that it’s more expensive, slower and has severe data caps.

That’s another problem, though. The good news from Akamai is that Californians who use the Internet have access to faster service and, more significantly, are increasingly opting for it.