I’ve been working online now for over a decade and it’s still striking to me how slow the internet connection speeds are in the United States compared to the rest of the world. Now, I know that we have a very large nation and rely on private companies to provide the funding and initiative to upgrade our technical infrastructure, but come on man, it’s 2013! It’s a sad day when Google has to take the initiative because their business is impacted by slow speeds. I wish they did their Google Fiber test in San Diego rather than Kansas, but what can you do?
After moving to California and coming from a place where Comcast provided the internet speeds, it was a very jarring experience to go first from AT&T (which was terrible) with an average connection speed of <3MBPS and then move to a location services by Time Warner, where the average connection speed was better, albeit at an average of <7MBPS. The biggest problem with the move to Time Warner was that the connection would literally go down 3-4 times a day for 10-20 minutes at a time. After spending hours on the phone with technical support, only to be told that there was no issue and it had to be hardware related (funny that they are the ones who provided the hardware), I decided that I would take matters into my own hands.
A few hours of research later I decided to try out a wireless Netgear router that carried some very cool terminology, and a price tag that tells me “I’m the best you can possibly get”. Unfortunately even the newest type of technology was no match for the crappiness that was Time Warner’s internet offering. Frustration mounting, I once again took to the web to see if there was something – anything – that I could do that would deliver me from the slow connection purgatory that is living in California.
Breakthrough! Verizon FiOS was available near me! The speeds that they advertised were through the roof (US roofs only). I was able to return my Star Trek looking $200 Netgear modem to try out the base Verizon hardware. Two months later I can say that while I have a general hate/hate viewpoint of Verizon over the years based on various cell phone contracts, their FiOS service is so far absolutely fantastic. Average speeds for connecting are over 20MBPS and I’ve been able to break 75MBPS many times, making FiOS a comparable solution to having to stream all your movies from your employers location.
Still, this victory for my own personal internet connection underscores the need for real change to happen to our technical infrastructure as a nation. When you realize how many hundreds of thousands of people work online for a living, and how many tens of millions of consumers and businesses rely on the internet for research, contacts, communication, etc., it’s a real shame that we are stuck with such an expensive, archaic system considering how much our economy now relies on the internet.