US Internet speeds still slow compared to the rest of the world

A survey by the Communications Workers of America indicates that the median download speed for US Internet connections has changed little, and remains far slower than the rates experienced in other developed nations.

The typical US Internet connection delivers 2.3 Mbps downloads, according to the CWA's annual survey -- 400 Kbps over the previous year.

Compare this to Japan, whether the median download speed now stands at 63 Mbps. South Korea also is much higher at 49 Mbps, as is Finland (21 Mbps), France (17 Mbps), and even Canada, which has a median speed of 7.6 Mbps.

About 230,000 US residents participated by testing out their connections at a special Web site set up to meter broadband connections and lobby for broadband policy called "Speed Matters."

CWA officials cautioned that America's apparent speed constraints weren't just about downloading movies, but may also have economic implications on the country.

"Speed matters to our economy and our ability to remain competitive in a global marketplace," union president Larry Cohen said. "Rural development, telemedicine, and distance learning all rely on truly high-speed, universal networks."

The union plans to use the data to help convince the Senate to pass a bill called the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which calls for better definitions into what can really be considered true broadband. The bill would issue grants to states for studying the problem of how to roll out broadband lines to more customers, especially in rural areas. The House passed a similar measure earlier this year.

Cohen argues that the US needs a national broadband policy. "We are the only industrialized nation without a national policy to promote universal, high-speed Internet access -- and it shows," he mused. About 15 percent of Americans still use dial-up to connect to the Internet, which means the true median speed could even be lower than what is being presented here.

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