We won’t argue with the premise that American broadband speeds are too slow. But we will argue with this one: A report proclaiming the average American accesses the Internet at a miserly 2.35 Mbps (Megabits per second). That’s well below average rates in Asian tigers like Japan (63.6 Mbps) or South Korea (49.5 Mbps).
The study further breaks down the data by state, pronouncing that Rhode Island (median download speed 6.8 Mbps) is the fastest state for Internet in the Union.
But read the fine print: The report, produced by something called Speed Matters, is at best a half-hearted guess at figuring out broadband rates. And at worse, it’s something else: An attempt by the Communications Workers of America, which bankrolled the study, to lobby for a “National High-Speed Internet Policy” — which would presumably include all kinds of work for unionized labour.*
The real problem is with the study’s methodology — it doesn’t really have one. Speed Matters gathered its data by offering surfers a page to test the speed of their Internet connection (we prefer this test offered by Speakeasy instead). It then assumed that this self-selected group — people who’ve logged onto speedmatters.org — are representative of average Americans.
But it gets worse. Speed Matters gets its figure of 63.6 Mbps for Japan from a 05/01/08 study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank which coordinated its methodology with the OECD. So what does the far-more-scientific ITIF investigation say about the average US broadband download speed? It says America actually clocks in at 4.9 Mbps. That’s far below many Asian and West European nations, but over twice as fast as the number Speed Matters uses — presumably the group just wanted a number that looked even worse.
*We’re not reflexively anti-government policy, by the way, nor do we have a problem with unions — at least not across the board. And like we said, we’d certainly like to hop on the Net at the same speeds they do in, say, Korea. We just appreciate truth in advertising.
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