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US Internet Speeds Jump, But Still Lag Worldwide

Ookla’s latest Speedtest.net report for the US is in, and it’s got some good news: 

Internet speeds have become noticeably faster. Broadband customers across the US are now seeing average speeds over 50Mps down for the first time — specifically, 54.97Mbps, a 40 percent increase over this time a year ago, while upload speeds jumped 51 percent to 18.88Mbps.

The US telecom sector has seen considerable consolidation in the past few years, as Ookla notes in the report, with AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, and Altice USA’s purchase of Cablevision in back 2015. However, it says this year’s big merger between Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks could have the largest impact.

The biggest bright spot is the growth of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), or fiber optic connections. That doesn’t include Verizon FiOS, which was first out of the gate. But it seems to have stalled out in growth and isn’t much better or faster than conventional cable these days except on upload speed, as this chart shows:

Ookla Fastest ISPs

Credit: Speedtest.net

The real growth instead is in gigabit fiber optic, with the most notable being the (still not widely available) Google Fiber. The report notes some small cities have local ISPs that have begun to offer fiber connections to the home as well.

On the mobile side, speeds have jumped over 30 percent on the four major US carriers, averaging 19Mbps down in the first half of 2016. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all pushed hard to expand their LTE networks. Here, the problem isn’t so much speed as in coverage; getting 10Mbps or 30Mbps on LTE is less important if you can only get 2G or 3G in certain parts of the US, or worse, nothing at all. I’ve reviewed hundreds of phones over the years and have found countless dead spots during testing, even in areas that providers typically say offer the best coverage on the maps they provide to the public. It’s become much better, but it’s a trivial task to find LTE dead spots just outside major cities even today. . .