The country that has given birth to Silicon Valley and IT-giants such as Apple, Google and Microsoft is falling behind in the global Internet speed race. According to a report made by Akamai and published by PC Mag, in December 2015 only 25% of American Internet users had Internet speeds that exceeded 15 Mbps. It’s indicative that the USA didn’t enter top 10 countries with fastest and most reliable Internet connections. But why is Internet in the USA so underestimated and how does it affect the US tech industry?
Scattered population and different priorities
If you take a look at this infographic, brought to us by Forbes, you’ll see that the states with fastest average Internet speeds are clustered on the East Coast. Only Utah and Washington (Seattle, not D.C.) of non-Eastern states qualified among the first ten states with fastest Internet speeds. Also, it’s surprising that California didn’t make it to top 10.
One of the major reasons for such extreme amplitudes in Internet speeds is the huge size of this country. It might be easy to improve the optic infrastructure along the Atlantic Coast, where cities are close and the living standard is high. However, making expensive Internet investments in the Midwest might never pay off. Since the Great Plains are still mostly an agricultural area and the Rockies are scarcely populated, online technology simply doesn’t have such a strong impact on this part of the States.
However, the tide could turn if there was enough input, meaning that people might turn to tech industry if they get better Internet connections. For instance, agricultural areas could use the Internet for more efficient production and market placement of their crops.
A shift in the media reality
If you want to understand how Americans use modern media, you need to know that cable television still plays a major role in the lives of American people. According to an analysis made by Leichtman Research Group, the number of Internet subscribers surpassed the number of cable subscribers in 2014. However, the difference was barely 5,000 subscribers in favor of the Internet.
It’s important to differentiate subscribers from users. In 2016, there were about 286 million Internet users in the USA, out of 323 million inhabitants [source]. What we’re talking about here is the rooted habit of American people to get their information and entertainment content via cable. So, it’s logical that an average user doesn’t need a fast Internet connection. They use the Web for online shopping, social media (201 million Facebook profiles in the USA) and simple searches.
Nevertheless, IT-ventures and avid entrepreneurs shouldn’t be hostages of languid Internet habits. Internet providers are the ones who carry the greatest responsibility in this case.
Providers and broadband policies
The tricky thing with Internet providers in the USA is that the same companies provide both cable TV and Internet connections. Since their cable infrastructure dates back to the 1980s and 1990s, they’re trying to use that old equipment as long as possible. Moreover, replacing old copper cables with new fiber optic technology is simply too expensive for their budgets. If we know that fiber optic cables are the most important prerequisite for a fast Internet connection, it’s no wonder that an average Internet speed in the USA varies from 5 to 10 Mbps.
However, people can’t just let big players dictate the rules of this game. For instance, if you’re an ambitious owner of an online business, you should change your provider if the speed they deliver doesn’t meet your business demands. According to the information obtained from AT&T U-verse Internet providers it’s possible to reach as high as 75 Mbps of Internet speed in different parts of the USA. You should just ask around and check the most suitable Internet deals for your business.
IT-entrepreneurs taking the initiative
Closely related to the arguments from the previous paragraph, it’s essential that IT-entrepreneurs take the bull by the horns and start fighting for their rights. They should work closely with the local authorities in towns that have poor Internet connections. Nevertheless, the issue of the Internet is a political grey area.
Namely, Internet access is still considered a luxury and not an essential utility. Due to that, politicians who pinpoint the issue of slow Internet speeds in the USA are often accused of interfering with the free market. However, local politics is something completely different, so successful IT-startups and individuals should press their local authorities to bring acts that will improve the quality of Internet connections.
Alternatively, they can always relocate their business. Some American towns and cities have made significant improvements in their Internet speeds and other tech-related regulations. For instance, Dallas and Austin (both TX) aren’t located in US state with the fastest Internet speed. Nevertheless, thanks to the local efforts, they have a potential to accommodate tech parks similar to Silicon Valley and attract other IT-businesses to come and work in these two cities.
While the vast majority of Americans have Internet access, they can’t always rely on the speed they receive. A high broadband speed is vital for the development of modern technologies. This is why Internet providers, the local authorities and the Federal Government need to make an agenda that will bring fast broadband Internet to all American homes. Such an act will enable millions of Internet entrepreneurs to put their ideas to practice and make the US economy thrive.