Thursday, July 28, 2011

Broadband performance study finds huge regional disparities in USA

Pando Networks has published the results of a study evaluating the Internet download performance of 4 million users across the country. The data offers some insight into regional bandwidth trends, highlighting significant disparity between US states in the average quality of Internet connectivity.
The study found that the Northeastern states and the West Coast had the highest average Internet speed. Rural regions in the Midwest tended to have the lowest average download performance—a finding consistent with previous reports of broadband availability challenges in rural communities. The highest-performing state was Rhode Island, with an average download speed of 894KBps. The lowest performer was Idaho with only 318KBps.

The scores from Pando's tests are quite different from the results of a smaller broadband performance study conducted by Communication Workers of America (CWA) in 2007. The CWA survey identified some similar regional trends, but found uniformly higher performance across the country. Both studies point to Rhode Island as the state with the fastest average broadband speed, for example, but CWA computed average broadband speed in the state at 5Mbps.
Pando's tests are based on real-world downloads made by users of the company's services, so it's not necessarily an accurate reflection of the user's actual bandwidth capacity. For example, users could be downloading other things in the background. Without more specific details about the methodology of both tests, it's difficult to speculate about the reason behind the vastly different scores.
In addition to comparing average speeds regionally, Pando also compared the difference in average performance between broadband providers. Comcast had the highest average download speed at 890KBps and Verizon came in second with 788KBps. A separate comparison of mobile broadband providers found that AT&T was the fastest at 416KBps and Verizon was the slowest of the major providers at 216KBps.
Accuracy of the specific numbers aside, the trends that emerge in all of these studies appear to show similar kinds of regional disparities. The bottom line is that not everyone in the United States has equal access to high-performance Internet connectivity.

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