Ranking the fastest internet speeds around the country

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With more people working from home than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, internet speed has become critical for employees in remote- and work-from-home setups. A report detailed by highspeedinternet.com outlined which states had the fastest and slowest speeds, in addition to the most improved internet speeds from 2020 to 2021.

Fastest and slowest internet speeds by area

According to the report, Rhode Island once again checked in as the state with the fastest internet speed at 129.0Mbps, followed closely by neighbors such as New Jersey (120.4), Delaware (119.1), Maryland (118.2) and Washington, D.C. (117.7) making up the five fastest. Washington, D.C. also clocked in as the metropolitan area with the fastest internet speed in the country.

While Washington clocks in with the fastest internet speed within metro areas, the slowest internet speeds belong to those in more rural areas. Charleston, West Virginia’s average speed was nearly 100Mbps slower than that of the nation’s capital, at a mark of 32.7Mbps. Charleston also had by far the slowest speed of any metro area in the U.S., as Boise, Idaho averaged the second slowest speed of 56.9Mbps.

With regards to the slowest internet, Montana came in as the slowest state with an average download speed of just 54.4Mbps. Despite ranking last, Montana actually showed significant improvement in its speed from 2020 to 2021, upgrading from 2020’s average speed of 30.1Mbps. Rounding out the top-five states in slowest speeds were West Virginia (55.2), Idaho (55.4), Maine (56.3) and Wyoming (60.0). 

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“States with higher density population centers have typically had access to fiber connections longer than states that are more spread out in the western U.S., such as Idaho and Montana,” said Tim Tincher, a staff researcher at highspeedinternet.com. “The biggest difference between western states with slower speeds and the states on the east coast with higher populations is the amount of fiber connections that are available to consumers. Because communities in western states are more spread out and often have rougher terrain, technologies like fiber and 5G have been slower to roll out in these areas.” 

The most improved metro last year belonged to Huntsville, Alabama, which leapt from an average speed of 27.4Mbps in 2020 to 82.4Mbps in 2021, over a 200% increase. On another positive note, 62 of the country’s 100 metro areas were above the threshold of 89.3Mbps with regards to internet speed as well. 

The United States as a whole saw its average speed more than double over the last two years as well, going from an average of 42.86Mbps in 2020, all the way up to an average speed of 99.3Mbps in 2021.

Fiber reigns supreme, if you can find it

With regards to internet providers, the report states that the fastest internet belonged to the companies offering fiber internet as an option versus cable or DSL. Fiber showed higher customer service ratings from customers than those that have non-fiber options. The main issue is that fiber has a problem of supply versus demand. For example, Google Fiber ranked as the fastest internet service available at the moment with speeds up to 2,000Mbps but is mainly only applicable to those living in major cities within the U.S. 

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If providers offering fiber internet became more widely attainable throughout the country, more users say they would jump on board. Seventy-five percent of 1,000 surveyed customers stated they would pay extra each month for fiber internet on top of their current rate, but lack of availability has been an obstacle. Of those that took part in the survey, 31% said they would pay $10 more per month for fiber internet, while 22% said they would pay $20 more on top of their current bill for the upgraded experience.

“Residents [in more rural areas] should stay informed of any new providers or tech coming to their area,” Tincher said. “If you’re holding out for fiber, residents should check out if 5G/4G LTE wireless home internet connections are available in their area — they might be better than what they have right now, especially if they’re using a digital subscriber line connection from the phone line.”

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