CWA Publishes State-by-State Download Speeds. How About Carrier-by-Carrier Speeds?

Expert Opinion August 15th, 2008

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August 15 – The Communications Workers of America’s Speed Matters blog this week published its state-by-state report on download speeds in the United States.

According to the report, the median download speed for the nation was 2.3 Megabits per second (Mbps), which it compared to median download speeds in Japan (63 Mbps), South Korea (49 Mbps), Finland (21 Mbps), France (17 Mbps) and Canada (7.6 Mbps). The median upload speed for the United States was 425 Kilobits per second (Kbps), which the report notes is “far too slow for patient monitoring or to transmit large files such as medical records.”

The CWA report was prepared based upon 229,000 tests in the United States from May 2007 to May 2008 – a truly impressive total. is also taking speed tests as part our effort to map out broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and service quality. While we have collected thousand of speed test results since we launched our web site in January 2008, we are still far short of the numbers of Speed Matters.

The new Speed Matters total tests compares with 80,000 speed tests taken from September 2006 to May 2007 and used in CWA’s July 2007 report.

The July 2007 report found a median download speed of 1.97 Mbps, and a median upload speed of 371 Kbps. The slight improvement from 2007 to 2008 means that “at this rate, it will take the United States more than 100 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in Japan,” according to the August 2008 report.

This current CWA report broke its current totals down state-by-state, from California, with 22,000 tests, to North Dakota, with 231 such tests. It used median download and median upload speeds to rank the states.

In terms of downloads, the top ten states in the CWA report were: Rhode Island (6.8 Mbps), Delaware (6.7 Mbps), New Jersey (5.8 Mbps), Virginia (5.0 Mbps), Massachusetts (4.6 Mbps), New York (4.1 Mbps), Florida (4.0), Maryland (4.0 Mbps), Georgia (3.0 Mbps), and the state of Washington (3.0 Mbps).

The internet company Akamai has also produced a state-by-state report about download speeds, ranking the percentage of states with greater than 5 Mbps for the first quarter of 2008. Five of CWA’s top-10 download states also made Akamai’s top-10 list: Delaware (1st place, at 60 percent), Rhode Island (2nd, at 42 percent), New York (3rd, at 36 percent), Massachusetts (8th, at 29 percent) and Maryland (9th, at 27 percent).

The remaining top-10 Akamai states were: Nevada (4th, at 34 percent), Oklahoma (5th, at 33 percent), Connecticut (6th, at 32 percent), New Hampshire (7th, at 30 percent), and the District of Columbia (10th, at 27 percent).

In terms of measuring broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and service quality, believes that the next crucial step is to break those speed totals down not only by geography, but also by carrier.

In other words, it is good to know the difference between the download speeds in Connecticut and in California. But it would be great to know the difference between the actual download speeds of Verizon Communications, AT&T, Comcast, etc., within different locations in Connecticut and in California.

That’s what is currently working on. We don’t have enough data to have a reasonable gauge of carrier-specific data on a state-by-state, or county-by-county, or ZIP code-by-ZIP code basis.

But based on the results from those of you who have Taken the Broadband Census and speed test, we do have preliminary data about carrier-specific download speeds and upload speeds. We also can gauge the difference between carriers’ promised speeds and their actual speeds. This information is based, again, upon the bottom-up, or “crowdsourcing,” of information by those of you who have Taken the Broadband Census!

We’re putting together a report based on this information as part of partnership with the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That report will be released later this year.

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