Broadband hits a speed bump in California

29 November 2016 by Steve Blum
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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.