Why America Continues to Lag in Internet Speeds

People Using Internet Devices

We talk to our friends on the internet. We do work on the internet. We share 30-second snippets of our lives on, yes, the internet. Increasingly, we live most of our lives through our mobile phones and tablets. Everything from job applications to staying in contact is done through an internet connection, so while we prepare to roll out 5G connection in the United States we must ask ourselves: why do we still lag so far behind other countries?

Two years ago, mobile phone usage surpassed desktop usage as the most popular way people accessed the internet. Mobile phones are more integral than ever, but, unfortunately, the US continues to lag behind when it comes to service. In a survey conducted last year by the State of the Internet Report of countries with the fastest mobile internet speed, the US ranked 28th out of the 62 countries measured. Countries ranked above the US included the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

As AT&T announces the first cities to get 5G capabilities with their network, which we won’t be able to access until at least next year, it begs the question if we as a nation are even prepared for the next generation of internet connection when we still lag so far behind.

The United States is stuck with an internet speed that is half the rate of South Korea’s and with download speeds that don’t compare to Singapore’s and the Netherland’s. We have a last mile problem that has gone unchecked for decades. The last mile colloquially refers to the proverbial last mile of connection between a residence or business and their service provider. As internet service gets better and faster, these cables should be rebuilt or updated. However, it is expensive to do that and companies often aren’t willing to do so. This severely inhibits service.

A bad connection affects us on more than just an individual level. The United States has tried to roll out public Wifi since the early 2000s with varying levels of success largely due to this issue. By and large, the United States has an internet connectivity problem, and it’s the reason why we are consistently lagging behind most countries we would usually be on par with.

New York is just one recent example of this failure. Back in 2008, former Mayor Bloomberg re-signed an agreement with Verizon with a stipulation that they would provide Fios to residential buildings. The hope was that adding another competitor to a largely monopoly-driven internet market in New York would increase competition between service providers and improve Wifi. Unfortunately, the project wasn’t completed by its 2014 due date and the city of New York sued Verizon over this last year.

The promise of a connection that allows users to download a 3D video in 30 seconds—  4G currently takes around six minutes– brings many wishes of an improved internet experience that much closer to reality. Still, it’s impossible to continue to move ahead if we don’t first fix our existing issues. As long as our last mile problem exists, other countries will continue to pull ahead of us and advance at faster rates while we get left behind.

 

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