Urban, rural broadband connectivity divide probed

States with most high broadband connections located mostly on the East Coast

A new report issued by CDN provider Akamai shows that there remain significant disparities between urban and rural areas in delivering broadband connectivity in the United States, despite a relatively high number of high broadband connections nationwide.

There remain significant disparities between urban and rural areas in delivering broadband connectivity in the United States, despite a relatively high number of high broadband connections nationwide, according to a report issued by content delivery network  provider Akamai.

The report, which is the first of what Akamai says will be a quarterly "State of the Internet" series, shows that the United States has the seventh-highest percentage of high-speed broadband connections in the world, with 20% of all connections achieving speeds of 5Mbps or higher. However, when looking at the overall percentage of regular broadband connections, the United States drops to the 24th spot in the world, with 62% of all Internet connections achieving speeds of 2Mbps or higher.

Looking at the data on a state-by-state basis, the report shows that most of the states with the highest percentages of 5Mbps connections are East Coast states that have large urban areas. Delaware has the highest percentage of 5Mbps connections at 60%, followed by Rhode Island (42%) and New York (36%). Seven states had high broadband connection rates of less than 10%, the report shows, with Hawaii having the lowest percentage at 2.4%.

Many of the states that had higher percentages of slow connections (256Kbps or less), in contrast, are geographically larger and less dense population-wise than the states with the highest percentage of fast connections. Washington (21%) is the state with the highest percentage of slow connections, followed by Virginia (18%). Other states with slow broadband connection percentages of 10% or less include the District of Columbia (17%), Georgia (15%), Illinois (15%), Texas (13%), Alaska (11%) and Iowa (10%). Interestingly, Washington D.C., also has the tenth-highest percentage of high broadband connections at 27%, making it the only state to appear on the top 10 for the highest percentages of both fast and slow connections.

Akamai says that it used its globally distributed network of servers to gather data on several different metrics for U.S. Internet connections and traffic, including total attack traffic and network connectivity. The company says that all future reports will provide further updates on improvements or declines in U.S. broadband connection speed.

The digital divide between urban and rural areas in the United States has been a hot topic among both politicians and ISPs. As many ISPs have consistently stated that there simply isn't enough money to be made that would justify expanding their broadband networks to large areas with low population density, many in government have suggested subsidizing rural broadband in the United States.

At last month's Wireless Communications Association meeting in Washington, D.C., former Virginia governor Mark Warner told the WCA that building out broadband infrastructure to rural areas would be one of the big challenges of the next few decades, as global competition would put more competitive pressure on American workers to have access to high-speed Internet. Warner made several suggestions for how to deliver high-speed broadband to rural areas, including treating fiber as a public utility in broadband areas and using unoccupied television "white spaces" to deliver wireless broadband connections.

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