Tag Archives: akamai

Sometimes, telecoms lobbyists can’t help telling the truth

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When I see a headline like "Broadband speeds have soared under net neutrality rules, cable lobby says", I gotta click on it. So I did and landed on an article by Jon Brodkin on Ars Technica.

There’s no Damascene conversion involved, though. What Brodkin is highlighting is how cable lobbyists, such as the National Cable Television Association (or whatever they say the acronym stands for these days), brag about faster Internet speeds, while at the same time bemoaning the infrastructure investment apocalypse that must surely follow the FCC’s 2015 decision to regulate broadband as a common carrier service…

As we can see, the NCTA has flexible messaging and applies conflicting arguments to different situations. When the NCTA tells the Federal Communications Commission that it should roll back net neutrality regulations, the association says that the rules harm investment and raise prices on consumers. But when trying to convince the public that US broadband is a marvel of innovation and that we should all be grateful to cable companies, the NCTA says speeds are soaring and that customers are paying less.

So which is it? On an aggregate basis, broadband speeds in the U.S. are still climbing, although improvements are unevenly distributed, with affluent areas getting attention and poorer rural and inner city areas not. The NCTA’s latest puff piece is based on the the most recent State of the Internet figures published by Akamai, which is a reliable gauge of worldwide Internet performance and traffic. The exact magnitude and distribution of those improvements might be open to debate, but the general trend isn’t.

On the other hand, there’s little evidence that common carrier rules have slowed infrastructure investment. Forbes thinks it has, but Brodkin’s research shows that big incumbent telecoms companies, including AT&T, Comcast, Charter and Altice, are still putting out a happy, happy, joy, joy message to Wall Street.

Broadband service is getting better for some in the U.S., and the areas where infrastructure investment is lacking never had it in the first place. Common carrier rules don’t seem to be doing any great harm. Thank you NCTA for clearing that up.

U.S. broadband speeds climb, but gap between fast and slow persists

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Ninety percent of connections made to Akamai’s content delivery network by users in the United States were at the 4 Mbps level or better in the first quarter of this year, a five percent increase from a year ago. That indicates that consumers continue to migrate away from the lowest speed service, when they can.

Take up of faster speed levels, though, is growing relatively quickly but still represents only a fraction of the U.S. market. Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report shows that 61% of U.S. connect with speeds of at least 10 Mbps and only 21% at 25 Mbps or faster, although that proportion is growing. That 21% score is 65% higher than last year – the biggest jump in high speed take rate of any country in the top ten.

And the U.S. did rank in the top ten – in tenth place – on the global 25 Mbps list. That compares to 37th globally in the 4 Mbps rankings.

One caveat: the universe that Akamai is measuring is a subset of the entire Internet, albeit a subset that’s a very large proportion of the whole. It only sees users that are connecting to websites and content that need or can use the fast connections it enables. Those that can’t – people with very low speed access, for example dial up or the kind of sub-megabit legacy DSL service in some Californian communities that AT&T and Frontier Communications never upgraded. So based on Akamai’s numbers, we don’t know the exact percentage of U.S. Internet users who don’t have service even at the 4 Mbps level – it’s at least 10% but likely more.

Overall, the average U.S. broadband speed – from Akamai’s particular perspective – was 18.7 Mbps in the first quarter of 2017, tenth highest in the world and a 22% increase from a year ago.

California’s broadband speeds rank second among its peers

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Where it really counts, California’s broadband speeds come out on top, or nearly so. We’re the sixth largest economy in the world, and our average broadband speeds rank second, 1 Mbps behind Japan. According to the Akamai State of the Internet report for April through June of 2016, the average Internet user in Japan connected to its content delivery network at 17.1 Mbps, while the average Californian connected at 16.1 Mbps.

Average connection speeds in Japan slowed a bit in the second quarter, from a high of 18.2 Mbps, as did California’s average, which was 16.4 Mbps in the first quarter of 2016. No explanation was offered for the decrease, but it’s worth noting that a similar dip occurred in other markets at the higher end of the speed range.

The gross size of an economy seems to be a weak predictor of Internet speeds. The U.S. is the biggest economy, but only ranks third on Akamai’s broadband hit parade. Germany (14.1 Mbps) and the U.K. (15.0 Mbps) are both top five economies and are in the top five for broadband speeds, although their relative positions are flipped.

The second biggest economy, China, was in eighth place with a 5.2 Mbps average speed, ahead of Brazil (4.8 Mbps) and India (3.6 Mbps). France (9.6 Mbps) and Italy (8.2 Mbps) fall in between, but fail to clear the 10 Mbps hurdle.

Although the level of development varies, big economies have a lot in common. Populations tend to be large and diverse, with a wide range of income levels. People cluster in dense urban communities, but a significant number live in lightly populated but otherwise expansive rural areas.

Akamai’s data only includes Internet connections that cross its network, and many Internet users have connections that are too slow to support or make much use of the media rich content it distributes. But the report is a useful gauge insofar as it reflects the actual speeds experienced by typical consumers with access to true broadband service. By that measure, California is looking very good.

Update: post was edited to clarify the reason that Akamai’s data does not include all Internet users. H/T to @akamai_soti for pointing out the original text was ambiguous.

Broadband hits a speed bump in California

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Internet connection speeds took a dip in California during the second quarter of this year. The Akamai State of the Internet report for April through June of 2016 shows the average connection speed from users in California to its content delivery network dropped to 16.1 Mbps, from 16.4 Mbps in the first quarter of the year. On the other hand, connection speeds are still rising on a year over year basis – the average speed in California was 14.0 Mbps in the second quarter of 2015.

California is not unique in this regard. Average connection speeds in most U.S. states fell slightly during the second quarter (and were also higher on a year over year basis). Akamai offers no explanation for this trend, and taken in isolation there’s no particular cause for concern. It could be, for example, due to some idiosyncrasy in the data collection and/or analysis methodology.

On the other hand, it bears watching. It might point to congestion problems that are the result of Internet traffic increasing faster than network operators are expanding capacity. Measurements taken by the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this year indicate that mobile data networks are becoming increasingly unreliable, in terms of consistency of user experience, even though top speeds continue to rise.

Compared to our neighbors, Californians are middle of the pack. Washington’s average is faster at 17.2 Mbps, but we’re just above Oregon (15.8 Mbps) and Nevada (15.3 Mbps), and well ahead of Arizona (14.1 Mbps). Akamai doesn’t do state by state breakouts for Mexico, but the national average there was 7.4 Mbps. It would be interesting to see how service in Baja California compares to what we get here in Alta California – my guess it’s a smaller gap than Mexico’s overall average would indicate, but I’ll have to wait for Akamai to change its reporting method, or find other data, before I can test that theory.

In the U.S., the average was 15.3 Mbps overall. Top honors went to Rhode Island at 19.6 Mbps and Idaho brought up the rear of the pack at 10.4 Mbps. Two western states – Utah (18.9 Mbps) and Washington – made the U.S. top ten.

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.

California’s broadband speeds get average marks from Akamai

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Internet connection speeds in California are better than the national average, but not by much and not by enough to be amongst the leaders. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report for the first quarter of 2016, the average speed at which Californians connected to its content distribution network was 16.4 Mbps. That compares favorably to the U.S. average of 15.3 Mbps, but it is well behind the leader, Delaware, which averaged 21.2 Mbps.

In the west, California was beaten by both Washington – 17.4 Mbps – and Utah – 19.7 Mbps. Both states ranked in the top ten nationwide.

Or, rather, top nine: Akamai reckons Washington D.C. to be a state, and it was at the top of the chart with a 24.0 average. That’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, though, and Akamai shouldn’t be making it. Regardless of its unique constitutional status, Washington D.C. is a city and should be compared to other cities. There was no such data in Akamai’s report, but I would guess that if you rolled other major metropolises into the rankings, most, if not all, would score higher than the states. Urban areas have better broadband infrastructure and service than rural areas, and that brings the state averages down.

The percentage of Californians who connect to Akamai’s network at speed more or less tracks with the U.S. average. In California, 88% of connections to Akamai were from broadband service plans rated at 4 Mbps or better. That number slips to 59% at 10 Mbps and 37% at 15 Mbps. Those scores were well behind the leaders – 98% of Delaware connections come from 4 Mbps or better accounts and 57% are at 15 Mbps – but hover within a percentage point or two of the U.S. average.

California broadband improves but still falls short of excellence

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Average Internet speeds continue to rise in California and across the U.S. Akamai’s quarterly State of the Internet report shows the average Internet connection from Californian users to its content distribution network servers at 15.3 Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2015. That’s a 22% increase from a year before, and more than double – 107% – from three years before, when the average California connection clocked in at a mere 7.4%. Other states saw similar improvements…

In the fourth quarter, average connection speeds among the top 10 states continued the momentum from the third quarter with robust increases seen across the board…All 10 states had average connection speeds meeting the 15 Mbps threshold — up from 8 in the previous quarter—but none had average connection speeds reaching the FCC’s new 25 Mbps broadband threshold.

Looking across all 51 states [including the District of Columbia], 49 saw average connection speeds above the 10 Mbps threshold compared with 44 in the third quarter. Kentucky and Alaska—the two states with the slowest speeds—were not far behind the rest, both seeing average connection speeds of 9.8 Mbps

California did not rank in the top 10, falling far below Delaware’s 20.4 Mbps average and trailing behind tenth place Washington’s 16.7 Mbps mark. Even so, one-third of Californian users were at or above the 15 Mbps level, which is a significant benchmark – that’s the point at which the connection would support 4K video service.

California still has work to do, with 14% of Akamai users falling below the 4 Mbps level, which is the rock bottom standard used by federal agencies to determine whether an area – usually rural – is served or not.

There’s more network traffic at 4K levels, but can growth be sustained?

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Home field advantage.

The prospects for widespread adoption of 4K television technology and programming – often referred to as ultra high definition – are slowly getting better in the U.S. According to Akamai, which just released its State of the Internet report for the second quarter of 2015, about a fifth – 21% – of U.S.-based users on its network are running at 15 Mbps or better, which ranks 18th best in the world. That’s the minimum service level needed to stream 4K programming.

California does better than that with 26% of Internet connections on the Akamai content delivery network measuring 15 Mbps or faster, which would put us at 14th internationally, with about the same adoption rate as Finland and the Czech Republic. As with Internet speeds, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan rank first, second and third respectively.

South Korea is particularly strong when it comes to 4K capable homes, more than half – 53% – clear the 15 Mbps benchmark. That gives South Korean manufacturers in general and Samsung in particular a big competitive advantage. The ability to field test new products in the home market, where high speed broadband adoption is robust enough to support significant content production as well, will boost development of the technology.

The U.S. and Californian figures are encouraging, but might also be misleading as well. The more people that buy service packages at or above the 15 Mbps level, and the more they start streaming high bandwidth 4K programming, the more clogged local and long haul infrastructure will become. It’s one thing for a relatively small fraction of users to occasionally hit high speeds. If that becomes the norm for streaming traffic, though, core infrastructure, from the neighborhood level on up through connections at Tier 1 Internet exchanges will have to be upgraded to handle the volume and avoid complete logjams.

From a global perspective, California’s Internet speeds are pretty damn good

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California has the 11th fastest average Internet speed in the world, according to the latest Akamai State of the Internet report, which looked at Internet traffic over its content delivery network during the second quarter of 2015. Clocking in at 13.7 Mbps, the Californian average is ahead of the U.S., which finished 18th overall with 11.7 Mbps, but behind several European countries – Sweden (16.1 Mbps), Switzerland (15.6 Mbps), Netherlands (15.2 Mbps), Norway (14.3 Mbps), Latvia (14.2 Mbps), Finland (14.0 Mbps) and the Czech Republic (13.9 Mbps) are fourth through tenth – and way behind the top three finishers, South Korea (23.1 Mbps), Hong Kong (17.0 Mbps) and Japan (16.4 Mbps).

The peak speed reached by Californians on Akamai’s network was 62.1 Mbps, a 28% increase from a year before. Although California didn’t have any new gigabit-class system rollouts, Akamai did give credit to Comcast for offering a new 250 Mbps service package in some areas of California, and promising gigabit speeds somewhere down the road.

Among U.S. states, California ranked 10th. Top spot on that list went to Delaware with a 16.7 Mbps average. Utah boasts the fastest Internet in the West, with 15.2 Mbps and Washington leads the Pacific coast with 14.7 Mbps.

There’s a lot of work still to be done in California, but every so often you should sit back and be happy about the good things we do have. A 13.7 Mbps average hides wide swings in the underlying numbers, but it also means we don’t have as far to go as most of the world does in order to get best of class Internet service extended to every Californian. It’s a winnable battle.

U.S. supreme court sticks to the strict meaning of patent infringement

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There’s good news in the U.S. supreme court’s unanimous decision this week to toss out a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Akamai against a competing content delivery network, Limelight.

The court declined to open a vast new frontier for patent troll claims. Akamai, of course, isn’t a troll – it uses its patented technology to good effect – but it was trying to make the case that a partial (and thus, under law, allowable) duplication of a method it developed was actually an infringement because Limelight told customers how to complete the missing steps themselves. That was no different, Akamai said, than if it had been copied whole in the first place.

Lower courts bought that argument, but fortunately the supreme court disagreed. In the decision, Samuel Alito wrote

A method patent claims a number of steps; under this Court’s case law, the patent is not infringed unless all the steps are carried out…(a “patent covers only the totality of the elements in the claim and … no element, separately viewed, is within the grant”). This principle follows ineluctably from what a patent is: the conferral of rights in a particular claimed set of elements.

Had Akamai’s position been upheld, then the predatory bar could have gone wild and brought lawsuits against any two or more companies or consumers that were doing things that, taken together, looked anything like a patent – dubious or not – held by a troll.

There was no dissent or alternate views offered: the nine justices – left wing to right wing – spoke as one.