The United States of broadband: Location matters

The U.S. is falling in the quality of broadband its ISPs are offering on a quarterly basis, although in the fourth quarter of 2011 that fall in speeds was seen by several other counties, with overall broadband speeds falling to a global average 2.3 Mbps from the third quarter to the fourth. The data comes from Akamai’s (s akam) State of the Internet report, which uses the content delivery network’s data to construct a detailed report on web speeds, security and mobile connections. Om has covered the big picture, but here’s what the report says about the U.S.

For the year, the global average connection speed was up a 19 percent, with double-digit percentage growth seen in eight of the top 10 countries and also in the U.S., which is ranked 13th. The U.S.’s average connection speed is 5.8 Mbps — a 14 percent increase from the previous year.

Overall our average peak connection speeds ranged from 36 Mbps in Delaware down to 13.3 Mbps in Arkansas. The changes in those speeds were split fairly evenly, with growth in speeds in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and declines in 26 states. It’s important to note that Akamai measures this from folks connecting to get content off of its servers, so there are folks with broadband connections that might not be counted if they never manage to hit Akamai’s services (such is someone who only gets email).

Across the country Akamai saw a positive growth trend in broadband adoption in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Forty-two states saw broadband usage grow in excess of 10 percent year over year. Oddly, Maine and Hawaii residents saw their broadband adoption decline by  23 percent and 32 percent respectively.

There are five U.S. cities in the top 50 fastest global cities measured by the peak broadband speeds, led by Bergen County, N.J. with averages speeds of 40.7 Mbps. Unfortunately, it’s halfway down the global list at No. 24. It’s followed by Monterey Park, Calif. (ranked 38) with speeds of 36.3 Mbps; Cambridge, Mass.(38) with speeds of 35.1 Mbps; Staten Island, N.Y. (48) with speeds of 34 Mbps; and finally Fairfield, Calif. (50) with speeds of 33.8 Mbps. Japan and S. Korea cities dominate the list.

Overall the U.S. is doing well in terms of moving people up from really slow broadband speeds of 256 Kbps or less to Akamai’s 2 Mbps cutoff for broadband. Plus, nearly 44 percent of U.S. households are buying connections of 5 Mbps, which Akamai dubs high-speed broadband. That’s a boost of 23 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. Perhaps all those streaming TV devices sold during Christmas of 2010 have contributed to folks boosting their broadband speeds. Also likely is the greater availability of faster cable broadband in the form of DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades. Globally high-speed broadband adoption is at 27 percent.

Akamai tracks the up and downs in speeds among the U.S. cities, but the big story there is California and the New England-area are the winners, experiencing both the fastest averages and peak speeds.

Akamai is optimistic that rural areas and the U.S. will see an overall boost in adoption and speeds asthe U.S. starts investing in reform measures that will allocate parts of people’s wireless and wireline phone bills for rural broadband deployment. However, in looking at the report, the biggest thing that comes to mind is everyone’s broadband experience is deeply local. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with high speeds, pat yourself (or maybe Verizon (s vz)) on the back.