According to Ookla’s Speedtest.net, Americans are currently getting around 167 Mbps of download speed and 22 Mbps of upload speed through their fixed broadband connections as of August 2022 — good for 6th in the world for median fixed broadband speeds. Considering “fast internet speeds” are generally defined as any download speed above 100 Mbps, Americans are doing quite well by this measure.
That’s an incredible improvement from just under a decade ago when the U.S. had an average download speed of just 31 Mbps. In 2013, America ranked 25th of 39 nations for broadband speed.
Granted, the rest of the world improved too — Ookla estimates that global speeds went up 31.9% between 2020 and 2021 alone — but the U.S. has outpaced even that rapid progress. Much of that improvement was a result of faster fiber-optic connections being installed around the country. Around 43% of Americans currently have access to fiber internet, with most offering incredibly fast speeds over 1,000 Mbps.
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Why is America behind 5 other countries?
Despite consistently climbing the rankings over the past decade, America still ranks well behind several other countries. Singapore has the fastest median internet speeds in the world, with 219 Mbps, followed by Chile at 211 Mbps. So what are Singapore and Chile doing that we’re not?
In short, they just have a lot less ground to cover. Singapore is merely 278.6 square miles — about half the size of Los Angeles. As a center of finance in Asia, Singapore’s economy is also highly dependent on a high-functioning digital infrastructure. Chile is far bigger, but other factors can play into faster broadband speeds, like different underlying technology and government policy.
Americans get fast internet, but we pay more for it
An Open Technology Institute report analyzing 760 internet plans across 28 cities in Europe, Asia and North America found that consumers in the U.S. pay more on average for monthly internet service than consumers abroad. The study reports that the average U.S. internet price across all plans in its dataset is $68.38/mo. for standalone internet service, including equipment rental fees and discounts. The analysis also determined that while the U.S. does offer fast speeds, like those provided by fiber-optic internet, these speeds are still the most expensive in the U.S.
Even though we get fast broadband speeds on average, that’s a lot to pay. According to the FCC’s most recent International Broadband Report, the U.S. came in at No. 21 of 26 countries on the “Fixed Hedonic Price Index” — which adjusts for “cost, demographic and quality differences across the countries.”
Of course, the U.S. is more spread out geographically than most of the countries on the list, so costs for delivering broadband will necessarily be higher. But some heavy internet users might actually be better off here than anywhere else.
“For so-called bandwidth hogs who stream lots and lots of video, the U.S. offers some of the lowest cost per megabit transmission speed and megabyte data delivered,” Penn State telecommunications professor Rob Frieden told Politifact. That’s one way to tilt the price-value ratio in your favor — just start streaming more Netflix.
Americans may be doing well on average, but it’s not spread equally
That said, those with access to fiber internet are largely concentrated around cities, and they likely skew U.S. broadband averages significantly. In other words, while we’ve jumped from No. 25 globally to our current No. 6 spot, not everyone in the country is benefitting from that improvement in the same way.
We still have a staggering internet divide in the U.S. While some people are getting 1,000 Mbps download speed — enough bandwidth to stream 4K video on 40 TVs at the same time — others are struggling just to check their emails.
Microsoft analyzed the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) broadband data in the U.S. and found that one-third of people in the U.S. aren’t using the internet at minimum broadband speeds, which the FCC considers 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. For context, that’s around what the average house in Uzbekistan gets.
Almost all of these people live in rural areas. According to the FCC’s 2021 Broadband Deployment Report, 16.3% of rural residents and 20.9% of people living on Tribal lands did not have access to minimum broadband speeds (25 Mbps), compared to only 4.4% in urban areas.
As former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put it: “If you live in rural America, there’s a better than a 1-in-4 chance that you lack access to fixed high-speed broadband at home, compared to a 1-in-50 probability in our cities.”
The bottom line
The U.S. certainly still has a lot of issues to work out with its broadband infrastructure — the rural internet divide chief among them — but the latest numbers are still encouraging. A median speed of 167 Mbps would be plenty for all but the highest usage homes. The problem is just making sure everyone can access speeds that high.
Still, no other country with America’s landmass can boast such high speeds. Canada is the closest comparison, and it doesn’t show up until No. 18 with median download speeds of around 118 Mbps.
Written by:Joe Supan
Senior Writer, Broadband Content
Joe Supan is the senior writer for Allconnect and MyMove. He has helped build the proprietary metrics used on Allconnect’s review pages, utilizing thousands of data points to help readers navigate these comple… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content