Google lights a prairie fire in Kansas

19 May 2013 by Steve Blum
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Kansas kicks it up.

Average Internet download speeds over the entire state of Kansas jumped by 86% in 2012, according to the State of the Internet tracking report from Akamai, a content delivery network pioneer.

To be sure, Akamai’s study relies on its own observed traffic and more or less ignores low speed, sub-256 Kbps connections, which would bring the average down. But its methodology is reasonably consistent across geographic markets and provides a fair basis for making comparisons.

Even though Google Fiber subscribers are seeing actual average speeds twice that found elsewhere in Kansas, Akamai says that traffic does not account for the speed boost:

The number of unique IP addresses observed for the Google Fiber [system] comprised less than one-tenth of one percent of the state’s total, so Google Fiber’s higher speeds are unlikely to have had a meaningful impact on the average and average peak connection speeds observed in Kansas during the quarter.

It fits a pattern I’ve seen, first hand, several times: telcos and cable companies respond to competitive overbuild threats by investing in plant upgrades. I think that’s part of the explanation. Another factor could be raised expectations among Kansans generally. Besides basic infrastructure, Akamai’s speed measurements also depend on the service consumers choose to buy. So if the Google buzz in Kansas City is contagious, that could boost demand for higher level Internet packages, which in turn would increase observed speeds.

Correlation does not prove causation, but I think it’s a fair bet that Google’s stimulation is producing the desired effect in Kansas.