Speedtest’s 2017 report on internet access speeds in the US provides a more detailed analysis of fixed broadband service providers than the report it issued last year. Not only are service providers ranked using a more sophisticated metric, but Speedtest provides insight on how successful the providers are in giving their customers a minimum level of acceptable service, regional differences among providers, and more.
The 2017 report introduces a new and improved metric for ranking fixed broadband service providers. The 2016 rankings were based on the top 10% of each provider’s recorded speeds which means 90% of users could expect to get speeds lower than the ones that determined the rankings. For 2017, Speedtest computed a Speed Score that takes the top 10%, the bottom 10% and the median speeds into account. The median is given twice the weight of the top and bottom speeds which are weighted equally. In addition, 90% of the Speed Score is based on download speed with the remaining 10% based on upload. The Speed Score gives a much more accurate measure of a service provider’s performance.
The fixed broadband report is based on more than 111 million speed tests carried out during Q1 and Q2 2017. Download speed averaged across all service providers was 64.17 Mbps (Megabits per second), a 17% increase over last year’s average. Average upload speed was 22.79 Mbps, a 21% increase from last year. Increases in download and upload speeds in 2017 failed to keep pace with the gains made in 2016 when average download speed increased 42% from 2015 and upload speed increased 51%.
During Q1 and Q2, America ranked 15th globally for download speed and 24th for upload speed. US service providers have made significant improvements since the end of Q2 as America ranked 9th in the world in download speed at the end of August. Speedtest does not provide global rankings for upload speed.
Ranking individual service providers is complicated because there are many small companies that provide fast speeds to a relatively small number of customers. Speedtest limited its rankings to service providers that accounted for 3% or more of the speed tests they recorded. Within that group, XFINITY was the fastest US carrier with a Speed Score of 69.58 when the data are averaged across the entire country. CenturyLink was the slowest with a Score of 14.91.
|National Speed Scores|
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Speedtest also compared carriers on what it calls an Acceptable Speed Ratio which it calculates as the percentage of a carrier’s download speed tests that are 10 Mbps or higher. This seems slow to me, but Speedtest deems it sufficient for one person to stream an HD movie while another visits websites or interacts with social media. Households that play video games, stream 4K video, or have more than two devices accessing the internet over fixed broadband at the same time might find that 10 Mbps is too slow to meet their needs
The national carrier rankings for Acceptable Speed Ratios are the same as the overall national rankings with two notable exceptions. Verizon Fios fell to 4th and Spectrum rose to 2nd.
|Acceptable Speed Ratios|
Speedtest’s regional analysis divides the US into Western, Midwestern, Southern and Northeastern regions. The results may come as a surprise. The West is the best with a Speed Score of 58.34, followed closely by the South with a 57.41 Score. The Midwest is third (Speed Score 40.83). The Northeast, which includes New York, Boston and Philadelphia, comes in dead last with a Score of 34.14 which is less than half the Scores of the West and South.
The regional Speed Scores are based on service providers with at least 3% of recorded speed tests, but Speedtest took notice of smaller – and often faster – service providers when it looked at the fastest providers in each region. XFINITY was the fastest in the West (78.6) and the Northeast (77.4) while Suddenlink (73.83) was the fastest in the South, and Mediacom (56.63) topped the Midwest.
The important role played by smaller service providers becomes clear in Speedtest’s city analysis. The report includes a table with download, upload and Speed Scores for the fastest service providers in 100 cities. Smaller providers gave their customers the fastest service in 22% of these cities.
Kansas City, Missouri had the fastest average download (131.39 Mbps) and upload (117.44 Mbps) speeds. Kansas City’s stellar fixed broadband service is provided by Google Fiber. Laredo, Texas had the slowest download (26.89 Mbps) and upload (4.5 Mbps) speeds. Laredo’s dismal service is provided by Spectrum. Laredo also has the slowest average mobile upload speed in the US.
If you’re interested in mobile, take a look at Speedtest’s 2017 Report Ranks the Fastest Mobile Carriers In The US.
You can find out how fast your fixed broadband connection is on the Speedtest website.
Kevin Murnane covers science, technology and video games for Forbes. His blogs are The Info Monkey & Tuned In To Cycling and he’s The Info Monkey on Facebook & @TheInfoMonkey on Twitter.