If you remember the sad screech of a modem, you know Internet speed has come a long way.
Nowadays, instead of posting text messages to bulletin board systems by using expensive computers ($3,000), Americans are streaming gigabytes of movies and other video to relatively cheap smartphones ($200).
Despite the advances, a new study suggests the U.S. is losing the race for Internet speed.
Akamai, a U.S. company that serves about 20 percent of the world’s Internet traffic, in its 2013 “State of the Internet” report, says America’s Internet speed has slipped to 9th from 8th. Latvia, the home country of Doctor Doom, is ranked 6th and probably plotting a way to destroy the Fantastic Four even now.
The Top 10 countries? South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Czech Republic, Sweden, U.S., Denmark.
South Korea’s average connection speed in early 2013 was 14.1 megabits per second. The U.S. average is 8.6 Mbps. The global average is 3.1 Mbps.
How fast is your connection? Comcast offers Internet service ranging from 3 to 105 Mbps at my address, but advertised prices are not reality. In my experience, the 6 Mbps level is enough to stream Netflix in the living room while a socially awkward cousin plays an online game on the basement PC.
The Huffington Post points Americans pay more for slower service than our online pals in Asia and Europe.
Verizon’s fastest service (the fabled 500 Mbps FiOS) goes for $310 a month, but is not available in Atlanta. Comcast’s fastest U.S. service (also not available here) is 305 Mbps for $320 a month.
Folks in Hong Kong pay $25 a month for service as fast as Verizon’s FiOS. In South Korea, 500 Mbps will set you back $30. Closer to home, $30 can get you Comcast’s 3 Mbps service.
In the U.S., Google has set up shop in Kansas City and offers a mind-blowing 1000 Mbps for $70. Plans are to expand Google fiber to Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah.
Why is the more typical U.S. Internet service considered slow?
You will notice that a lot of the countries that have the best service are small. The largest in that bunch, Sweden, is the only one larger than the state of Georgia, and Sweden is so cold everyone huddles in large cities warmed by humming Internet servers and vodka.
The U.S., meanwhile, is about the same size as all of Europe, and has a significant population living in rural areas miles (and years) away from high-speed Internet service.
And I am sure there are other reasons.