Why does North America have such slow internet speeds?Posted April 24th, 2012 by Tanner
Sure, the technology that makes up the internet is nearly twice the age of the internet itself, but our beloved world wide web only just turned 20.
As of 2012, the web we’ve all come to know and love (where you get your email and stalk people on Facebook) will be 21 years old — old enough to buy a drink at a bar, but still too slow to download a full HD movie in less than ten minutes, or much, much slower for most of us.
You may not know it, but it took some pushing and shoving back in 2009 to get broadband internet asa standard across the United States. Back then, Congress demanded that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) work on a plan to increase availability, affordability, and the quality of broadband internet access around the U.S. by February 2010.
Faster online speeds equal more business opportunities and the potential for faster online transactions. It’s a win-win situation for both the government and citizens.
Sure, the FCC managed to hit their goal near the deadline, as satellite broadband internet access became available everywhere cable, fiberoptic, and DSL internet wasn’t. But as the internet approaches its low-to-mid-twenties, we can’t help but ask: why is the internet in the United States still so damn slow?
Across the sea, countries are blazing through the internet at speeds near 100MBps or faster (as of this writing), which is more than double what we have available in the United States.South Korea and Romania have clearly taken the lead in terms of fast internet (with speeds faster than many other countries average speeds combined), while the United States sits somewhere back in line.
According to an Akamai report (http://gizmodo.com/5449794/lots-of-countries-are-getting-faster-internet-but-were-not-one-of-em), America is ranked 18th out of the entire world for internet speed. 18 isn’t devastatingly low, our speeds aren’t unacceptably slow (you can still watch funny cat videos on YouTube if you wait a few seconds, right?), but compared to at least 17 other countries, we’re way behind.
Again the question comes up: why?
In-case you couldn’t have guessed, the answer isn’t an easy one to come up with. But there surely is an answer, right?People blame ISPs with delicate and unimpressively powered network setups. The ISPs blame the government and FCC regulations, stating that any increase in broadband speed would create unfair advantages or something. Who’s right?
The United States is responsible for the largest chunk of research and development that powered the internet way back in 1965. How is it that our broadband speeds are not only slower, but access is also more expensive than what’s being offered in France, Japan, and Germany?
There are a lot of people spread far out across the U.S., for one thing. Distance between the population and the number of people who are all trying to simultaneously download HD movies or 100-track music albums are potentially to blame for slow speeds. Those who are consistently trying to download content (legally or otherwise) take up a large amount of bandwidth and the power-users are responsible for most of a network’s entire availability (thus the introduction of capped package plans during the mid-1990s).
Still, if networks in the United States can’t handle the constant bombardment of users, why not upgrade the frameworks which the networks are relying on to provide internet access to our homes? Rather than capping speeds, couldn’t they simply invest money in more powerful and readily available technology?
One reason internet service providers don’t build out their network is because it’s remarkably expensive, especially for a country as large as the United States.
It’s not like North America can simply string a bunch of cables along and call it good.
There’s a lot of space to cover over the US, and with that physical distance there’s an extreme expense in building out network lines, let alone maintaining all the network setups and still ensuring that the users who use the most bandwidth are able to keep doing so. We can’t forget about all of the existing networks/buildings/structures that stand in the way of lying fiber optic lines, too.
On top of all of that, there’s line and tower sharing rules, ownership regulation, and new market management, and so on and so forth. If population and distance doesn’t stand in the way of building more powerful networks, physical barriers, regulations, and fancy paperwork will.
Looking over every possible reason for the U.S. to be so far behind in terms of internet speed the answer is unequivocally complicated. There are so many different layers you would have to go through before you actually start to see what could possibly be deemed as a resolution.
So, that’s where we’re at.
As technology pushes forward and more and more people begin to access the internet through wireless devices, we can expect to see some big changes made in the wireless networks that are through-out the nation. Will it be enough? Nobody can guess at this point.
Maybe someone like Google will swoop down with a couple billion dollars and invest in laying new technology frameworks so we can watch cats jump into boxes faster.
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