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Image According to the Second Annual Speed Matters report from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), "the U.S. has not made significant improvements in the speeds at which residents connect to the Internet over the past year, and continues to fall behind other countries."

Speed Fail

The findings from the report were recorded after "about 230,000 people in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, went to the site to take an Internet speed test." 

The results found that that the median download speed in the U.S. was 2.3 megabits per second. Japan was 30 times faster, with a median download speed of 63 Mpbs. Other countries with faster download speeds include South Korea at 49 Mbps, Finland at 21 Mbps, France at 17 Mbps, and Canada at 7.6 Mbps.

These Internet speeds may be the reason why, as the report notes, someone in Japan can download an entire movie in about two minutes. Here in the U.S. it can take two hours or more.

But the speed issue affects more than just how fast you can download movies, the report says. Innovations in telemedicine, education, public safety, and home-based businesses can be hindered by the lack of widespread high-speed connections.

The U.S. median upload speed was only 435 kilobits per second, the CWA said, "far too slow for patient monitoring or to transmit large files such as medical records."  [Via Yahoo News]

If you that doesn't make you want to throw your routers out the window, read what the report said about the future of download speeds.
The growth rate of average download speeds is slow, the report said. The increase beween the 2007 report and this year's was only four-tenths of a megabit per second, from 1.9 Mbps average to 2.3. "At this rate," the report said, "it will take the United States more than 100 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in Japan."

The majority of those taking the survey used DSL, a cable modem, or a fiber connection, so the report may have "overestimated the average U.S. speed", since it would have taken too long for dial-up users to take part in the testing.

The report also found that 57 percent of urban households and 60 percent of suburban households subscribe to broadband, but only 38 percent of rural households use broadband access.

Breaking it down by state

The survey from CWA found that states with relatively high population densities led in high broadband speeds. The first ranked state was Rhode Island with 6.8 Mbps high broadband speeds, followed by Delaware with 6.7 Mbps,  New Jersey, 5.8 Mbps, Virginia, 5.0 Mbps and Massachusetts, 4.6 Mbps. The slowest speeds were recorded by states with large rural populations which include Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Alaska.

To improve broadband reception in rural and lower-income areas, the CWA and some government and public policy organizations have suggested that the Universal Service Fund be reformed to support build-out of broadband in underserved communities.
[Via Information Week]