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

by Steve Blum • ,

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.