U.S. Ranks High on Internet Usage, Despite Slow Speeds

The United States may lag behind in Web speeds, but Americans use the Internet far more than those in other countries.
by | May 16, 2012
 

For years, U.S. Internet speeds have lagged far behind many developed nations. But this isn’t deterring Americans from logging online.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index shows the U.S. accounted for a sizeable chunk of global Internet traffic -- about 31 percent in 2010.

The U.S. Telecom Association crunched a few sets of numbers (shown below) and found the country also ranks near the top in terms of data usage per user. The nation’s estimated 245 million Internet users consumed a monthly average of 25.7 gigabytes per user, according to the trade association. Only South Korea, which boasts the world's fastest speeds in many studies, transfers more data, with a monthly average of 49.1 gigabytes.

Cisco’s data indicates consumers used 82 percent of all U.S. data traffic in 2010, with businesses accounting for the remaining share. Although its share of global Web traffic will likely gradually recede in the coming years, the U.S. is projected to continue to remain a leader in overall data usage.

Americans’ appetite for the Web represents a stark contrast from the country’s slower connection speeds.

Most groups tallying Web speeds rank the U.S. far behind other nations. The country clocks in with an average download speed of 12.53 Mbps, 36th fastest worldwide, in the current Speedtest.net results. Similar tests conducted in a 2011 Pando Networks study ranked the U.S. 25th fastest.

Americans use far more data on average than residents of Japan, Germany and other large nations, despite generally slower Web speeds.

An article in the April issue of Governing examines how many states have worked to bridge the digital divide, partnering with service providers to bring high-speed Internet to unserved areas. Federal Recovery Act grants have funded much of the projects, pumping more than $7 billion into nearly 300 broadband infrastructure projects nationwide.

 

Internet Traffic per User

 

Source: USTelecom calculations using Cisco Visual Networking Index traffic data for 2010 and International Telecommunications Union and United Nations data for total Internet users. Estimates for smaller countries were not available, and instead grouped into geographic regions.

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