US high-speed Internet is…slow

Is this the inevitable consequence of privatizing access to the NSFNet backbone? From Press Esc:

The average broadband download speed in the US is only 1.9 megabits per second, compared to 61 Mbps in Japan, 45 Mbps in South Korea, 18 Mbps in Sweden, 17 Mpbs in France, and 7 Mbps in Canada, according (PDF) to the Communication Workers of America.

CWA President Larry Cohen testified before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, in support of a discussion draft of the Broadband Census of America Act.

“Good data is the foundation of good policy,” Cohen said. “We desperately need a national Internet policy to reverse the fact that our nation – the country that invented the Internet – has fallen to 16th in the world in broadband adoption.”

“Equally disturbing, Americans pay more for slower connection speeds than people in many other countries,” he added.

According to statistics provided by CWA 80 percent of households in Japan can connect to a fiber network at a speed of 100 megabits per second. This is 30 times the average speed of a US cable modem or DSL connection, at roughly the same cost.

Cohen pointed out that the average upload speed was in the US was only 371 kilobits per second, not nearly enough to send quality medical information over the Internet.

“Speed Matters on the Internet”, Cohen emphasized. “It determines what is possible; whether we will have the 21st century networks we need to grow jobs and our economy, and whether we will be able to support innovations in telemedicine, education, public safety, and public services to improve our lives and communities. High speed Internet could even help address the global warming crisis by allowing people to get things done without getting into their car.”

A national embarrassment.

UPDATE: On Dave Farber’s IP list, Michael Kende points out that the 1.9 Mbps for the US is based on actual field tests, while the 61 Mbps in Japan, 45 Mbps in South Korea, etc are merely those countries’ advertised speeds – not actual. (In the US, the average advertised speed is still a paltry 4.8 Mbps – still lagging behind). I’ll try to dig up data on actual speeds enjoyed in these other countries.


  1. I wish I got 1.9 Mbps with my DSL service. Larry Cohen is right when he says “It determines what is possible-” Don’t let the U.S. fall behind the rest of the World. Check out the ideas at

  2. sorry – The first posting did not go through.

    You introduce Cohen’s statement with this question:” Is this the inevitable consequence of privatizing access to the NSFNet backbone?”
    In fact Cohen’s conclusion is not to municipal or public ownership. The CWA’s campaign call for public policy to encourage private investment and build out coupled with public policy — requirements for quality and speed; worker protection; protections against redlining. It calls for public private partnerships like ConnectKentucky His answer to your question would be, “No.” It is not privatizing, the lack of affordable, high speed access for all Americans is caused by the lack of public policy, like so many of the higher speed countries have.

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