California's broadband speeds rank second among its peers

7 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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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.