According to Akamai’s Q3 2015 rankings, the United States has an average connection speed of 12.6 Mbps and an average peak connection speed of 57.3 Mbps.
According to the 2010 census, there are approximately 310 million documented people currently living in the United States. As of 2015, 75% are connected to the Internet, and this percentage is bound to increase considerably in the next few years.
Access to the Internet in the United States primarily consists of dial-up and broadband connections. Dial-up refers to a connection to the Internet made through a phone line, which creates a semi-permanent link to the Internet. Since the connection is made on a single channel, the connection is also slow. On the other hand, broadband access refers to an “always on” connection made through the phone line, but without the need to dial and hang up. In other words, it does not monopolize phone lines as dial-up connections do, resulting in faster and more reliable access to the Internet.
Dial-up used to be the primary method of connecting to the Internet worldwide, but nowadays has become obsolete and decommissioned in the entire world, except for a few countries, including the United States. Even though the percentage of adults still using dial-up is very low in the United States (3% and going down), this is not because everyone else has switched to broadband access, but rather because, due to lack of infrastructure in some rural areas, people are forced to go for dial-up. High cost for broadband access is also one of the reasons cited by those who are not connected to the Internet.
Broadband access in the US can be primarily divided into ADSL, cable and satellite Internet access, along with mobile broadband (for mobile users). The FCC (Federal Communications Service) defines broadband as any connection with a download speed of at least 25 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 3 Mbps.
Considering that the United States is currently the first economy in the world and is likely to maintain its position for the foreseeable future, there have been a lot of debates and questions revolving around the reason this country does not rank among the top in the world in terms of Internet Speeds. The current “incumbent” is South Korea, which has an average connection speed of 20.5 Mbps and an average peak connection speed of 86.6 Mbps. However, the US has a GDP of $18 trillion, while South Korea lags behind with only $1.38 trillion. The US is also one of the leading nations of technology in the world, while South Korea does not benefit from the same kind of reputation.
However, it does not all boil down to economic power and technology reputation, but rather to how the technology has evolved over the course of time. In the US, ADSL and cable connections are both leveraged technologies, using older network infrastructure to deliver broadband service. For cable, DOCSIS is adopted to reuse Hybrid fiber-coaxial network that cable companies had been using for decades to deliver video services. For ADSL, Plain old telephone service network is used to achieve the same results.
Putting it simply, since the United States built up the Internet first, the pipes and networking that make up the Internet are very old. Replacing the existing infrastructure with newer one is not only cost prohibitive (both from the perspective of acquiring the necessary material and replacing the existing one), but also time-demanding, and would not benefit ISPs in the long run whatsoever. If the infrastructure is revamped and speeds go up, ISPs will have to decrease their prices considerably since that will absolutely create competition, which is what they are trying to avoid in the first place.
According to latest data published by Numbeo, a subscription to the Internet comprising 10 Mbps, with unlimited data, on either Cable or ADSL technology costs a whopping $53 per month. Considering the facts we covered above and the current state of the Internet in pretty much anywhere else in the world, this price is definitely inflated. Seeing how things evolve in terms of infrastructure advancement, this cost is bound to remain the same for the foreseeable future.