Friday, December 17, 2010

Korea Ranks Number One in Fourth Annual "Speed Matters" Survey

The Communications Workers of America has released its fourth annual "Speed Matters" survey of broadband internet speed in the United States.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version) their report benchmarks several other countries around the world, including South Korea.  The new report argues that speed matters because 1) speed makes the promise of the internet a reality, 2) U.S. economic growth depends on high speed internet, 3) millions of Americans don't have high speed internet, and 4) the U.S. trails far behind other countries.  According to this latest report, the United States ranks fifteenth among the countries of the world in average broadband internet speed.


  1. Funny, they contradict themselves on their own site, at least based on the graphic you included. Their own "Speed Test Results" comparison chart shows Korea with an average of ~20.4 Mbps. That's a significant difference from the graphic's 34.1 Mbps.

    Also, the included graphic lists the US average as 3.0 Mbps, but their own results page gives an average of just under 5 Mbps. Those are some pretty glaring differences that they should address.

  2. I'm usually pretty wary about these kinds of "reports", until some of the methodology is explained. Primarily, how are they compensating for undeniable geographic differences between countries? The most obvious related statistic being population density, of course. In this case, SK having a population density 14 times higher than the US.

    After all, the USA is almost 100 times as large as South Korea. Keep in mind that internet connectivity is still very much a PHYSICAL connection requiring WIRES. So, it's not really an apples-to-apples comparison talking about Daegu vs. Bismark, North Dakota.

    Consider the 5 states with the highest average download speeds in the report - Rhode Island, Delaware, Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts. These states are 5 of the 9 smallest states in the US, by land area (1,2,4,7,9 respectively). That's NOT a coincidence.

    Or, look at an area like Seoul (metro area). When you have 50% of your national population in an area 1/3rd the size of New York City, it's not going to be very hard to get FTTH connectivity to pretty much everyone. Even if the government decides to "intervene" and "support" people in remote areas, they only have to worry about an area the size of a single state, ala Kentucky or Indiana.

    Really, this is never going to change, and I'm not sure it should. Is it a reasonable use of funds, public or private, trying to "hook up" everybody, everywhere? Not really.

    People in northern areas of Montana, or the hills of Appalachia, can't expect the same connectivity as someone living in downtown SF or Atlanta. If they can, it only means the government (or a private company) wasted a whole lot of money getting it there.