Akamai Details Winners, Losers in Broadband Race

5/29/08Follow @wroush

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“high-broadband” access—meaning last-mile connection speeds of 5 megabits per second or more. South Korea, as usual, was in the lead, with 64 percent of all connections occurring at high-broadband speed. The next closest competitors were Japan (48 percent), Hong Kong (35 percent), and Sweden (29 percent). The United States was seventh on the list, at 20 percent. (The table on the previous page ranks countries according to the percentage of connections that occurred at “medium” broadband speeds, meaning 2 megabits per second or above. And the table on this page details the slowest countries, giving the percentage of connections below 256 kilobits per second.)

The South Korea of the United States, it turns out, is Delaware, where a remarkable 60 percent of all connections took place at 5 megabits per second or more. Rhode Island was a distant second, at 42 percent, followed by New York (36 percent) and Nevada (34 percent). Massachusetts was in eighth place, at 29 percent. Strangely, the slowest state—the one with the highest percentage of connections taking place at 256 kbps or below—was Washington, home to Internet heavyweights Microsoft, Amazon, and Real Networks.

Slowest Countries
Country % below 256 Kbps
Rwanda 97
Solomon Islands 95
Ethiopia 94
Cuba 94
Uganda 92
New Caledonia 91
Malawi 90
Bhutan 90
Zambia 89
Seychelles 88

Belson cautions that one can’t make too much out of the connection-speed data, since it only represents a single three-month period, and measures behavior—the number of times broadband customers requested data—rather than the actual prevalence of broadband-capable connections. And the data contains some anomalies that may not be possible to explain until the company has collected more data. In Tunisia, for example, the number of connections taking place at 2 megabits per second or more went up a whopping 29 percent between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008. Unless the Tunisian government is engaged in a secret project to give broadband access to every citizen, this jump seems inexplicable.

Still, Akamai’s report offers an unusual look behind the curtains at a company whose tendrils may extend farther into the Internet than any other’s. In the past, you had to be a paying Akamai customer—or perhaps a three-letter federal agency—to get a look at this kind of information, says Jeff Young, Akamai’s director of corporate communications. “We’ve been working with business and government organizations almost from the inception of Akamai, and data like this would certainly be something of interest to those organizations,” Young says. “We’re not allowed to get into a lot of detail about what specific kinds of information they are looking for. But this is certainly an example of the kind of data we provide to our customers.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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