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osakarob's avatar

Why are download speeds in America so slow compared to the rest of the world?

Asked by osakarob (1304points) September 6th, 2008

My internet connection in Japan was up to 100Mbps. My COMCAST connection here in CA allows me to download at speeds of about 8Mbps. Why is America lagging so terribly behind the rest of the world with this. I remember it had something to do with telecom battles and the tech bubble, but what the #$%”. That was years ago. Why hasn’t the quality improved?

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15 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

Removed by Fluther moderators.

JackAdams's avatar

Hey! There was nothing wrong with that!

shadling21's avatar

Oh dang, what’d you say this time?

I didn’t realize that our download speeds were low. I say “our” because even though I’m Canadian, I have terribly slow downloads.

joeysefika's avatar

are you sh***ing me? In Australia I get 20000kilobits per second download and a 25gb download limit per month. I envy you in America

ckinyc's avatar

in Japan, they have cellphones and TVs we won’t see for another 3 years or ever. And they have cats that will flush the toilet after themselves! They also have “hole-tels” which your room simpily a sleep tube. You won some and lose some I guess.

osakarob's avatar

The site has reported, “The second annual survey of actual Internet speeds of users nationwide shows that the United States has not made significant improvements in deploying high-speed broadband networks in the past year. Our nation continues to lag behind other industrial nations and currently is ranked 15th in the percentage of residents who have broadband access.”


Wired ( noted
Just about everyone believes their internet connection is too slow, but now, if you live in the United States, you can prove it. A communications workers union has released a study showing that the median U.S. download speed is a mere 1.97 megabits per second. That number comes into perspective when you consider Japanese users enjoy a whopping 61 mbps for the same price.
If the numbers mean nothing to you, consider this from the opening paragraph of the report: “People in Japan can download an entire movie in just two minutes, but it can take two hours or more in the United States. Yet, people in Japan pay the same as we do in the U.S. for their Internet connection.”
But this is more than just a first-of-its-kind look at how your broadband provider is screwing you, it also has some nasty implications for U.S. productivity.
It could be argued that the survey does not encompass business and enterprise internet connections which are often much faster, but with more and more U.S. tech workers working from home, the study seems even more telling.
For those curious about the numbers, have a look at the actual PDF file with all the details. The high level summary is that the survey looked at 80,000 internet users in all 50 states and less than 5 percent of them were on dial-up connections. The dial-up numbers undoubtedly dragged things down, but only highlight the fact that in some areas that’s all that’s available.
The authors of the study call for government and private parties to embrace five key principles, which they feel could change the dismal download speeds of U.S. internet users:
Speed and Universality Matter for Internet Access
The U.S. “High Speed” Definition is Too Slow
A National High Speed Internet for All Policy is Critical
The U.S. Must Preserve an Open Internet
Consumer and Worker Protections Must Be Safeguarded
For the record, using the test service on the SpeedMatters site my own connection clocked in at a meager 2.9 mbps, just over the median for my state — you don’t even want to know the upload speed.

That is pretty sad, isn’t it?

richardhenry's avatar

[Fluther Moderator:] JackAdams’s ‘removed comment’ was not actually removed. He simply chose to post the phrase “Removed by Fluther moderators.” Notice that the option to ‘great answer’ remains, which is obviously not available for removed content. Please stop with the deception. If he has some sort of point to make, we suggest he tries the high road.

osakarob's avatar

Jeers to JackAdams!

richardhenry's avatar

Sorry, I didn’t write that particularly well. Replace the last part with “Please stop with the deception. If you have some sort of point to make, I suggest the high road.”

sinscriven's avatar

The infrastructure required to put that kind of speed in is time consuming, and expensive, and considering the size of our cities and wide open space in the US, we’re not going to be able to get consistent high broadband speeds for quite some time. It’s only “easier” in newer fast developing cities, and tightly packed established ones.

And then there’s the more cynical answer. The US government gave the telcos and cable proivders billions of tax dollars to create the infastructure needed to establish high speed internet, gave us crap, and spend the rest of the money on themselves, and decide to charge us ridiculous prices and slow speed to make up for it.

argaudette's avatar

I’d be jumping for joy with 8. Up here in Canada with my DSL provider I’m getting around 1 to 1.5 Mbps.

robmandu's avatar

Anecdotal reply… I’ve worked peripherally in the telco business.

America was the first country to get telecommunications… ever. America was also the first to roll out a continental network over millions of miles.

Ever wonder why you have to dial a 1 to go long distance? Or why it used to be that all area codes had to have a 0 or 1 as the second digit?

Well, back in the ‘50s, ‘60’s and so, many of the telco switches installed across the country were mechanical. Using specific digits allowed the logic in those mechanical switches to correctly route the traffic.

Some of that kind of infrastructure is still (well, might still) be in work today. We’ve got a lot of aging infrastructure to upgrade.

A third-world country that’s just now getting a national telecom network would employ latest generation technology… and here’s the key part… exclusively. So it’s easier for them to just start fast.

Japan is the exception. But it is a physically tiny first-world country. And Japan is famous for readily adopting and implementing the latest/greatest technologies ahead of everyone else.

osakarob's avatar

Thanks Sferik. Very interesting piece. I have enjoyed Cringely on PBS. He writes clearly and is understandable to even the novice.

robmandu's avatar

< < sets a reminder up in his calendar for July 18, 2015 as the day that broadcast television scheduling will die.

Cool article, @sferik.

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