Consumer broadband speed up by a third

Or maybe just 10 percent; either way we still lag the global pack

Do your Netflix flicks seem to be flowing faster than they did a couple of years ago? YouTube vids downloading a little quicker? online games a little snappier?

Chances are your broadband service is a lot higher than it was even a year ago, according to a new report from communications analyst firm In-Stat.

The survey of U.S. residential broadband customers showed the average connection was 9.54Mbit/sec for downloads, up from 7.12 Mbit/sec in 2009 – a 34 percent increase. Count back two years and include all connection types – not just broadband – and the average connection speed increased 71 percent over the course of two years.

Average costs for those connections rose just 4 percent during the same period.

That looks like a good deal, and In-Stat certainly presents it as one. But higher performance and lower cost is the way fast-developing technology is supposed to work, so I can't say I'm terribly impressed by a 34 percent increase in performance.

According to a January report from global content provider network Akamai, global broadband speeds are climbing 14 percent per year and average about 2Mbit/sec. That includes the U.S., Europe, the Pac Rim as well as places that don't have a lot of infrastructure to carry bits or devices on which to view them.

The U.S., it turns out, scored 12th in the list of countries with the fastest broadband speed. Only 13 U.S. cities even made the top 100 list; congratulations, San Jose, you were No. 1 (well, our No. 1, though No. 57 overall).

The average connection speed Akamai saw was 5 Mbit/sec, though it saw quarterly increases in speed of 10 percent or more in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

I don't know if In-Stat is optimistic (or its survey subjects were) or if Akamai is pessimistic. I do see the agreement between the two that broadband access is growing between 27 percent and 34 percent per year and the speed of each connection is on the way up.

We still trail most of the pack among developed nations in speed and are paying more than most. We're also back-of-the-pack on mobile broadband, despite the hype of LTE and WiMax and the rest of the potential overhauls of the U.S. wireless infrastructure.

And we still have a long way to go.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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