Survey: 36% of Americans don’t know what internet speed they’re getting

Joe Supan

Jun 14, 2021 — 4 min read

Our survey reveals a gap in internet knowledge among several key groups, but found that most Americans are happy with their internet speed.

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  • 36% of Americans don’t know the internet speed they get to their house, but only 20% of those who didn’t know their speeds were dissatisfied with their service
  • Women, people over the age of 55 and people who make under $40K were less likely to know their internet speed
  • 66% of Americans are satisfied with their internet speed overall
  • 73% of Americans don’t know how much internet speed they need

Americans spend around $720 every year on internet, but nearly 2 in 5 people say they don’t actually know what speeds they’re getting. 

In a recent Allconnect survey on internet knowledge, we found that those who know more about their internet speeds were more likely to be men, younger and more highly paid — mirroring the digital divide trends we see across the country as whole. 

Regardless of how much Americans know about their internet service, they tend to be satisfied with its performance overall. This was a surprising finding, considering that internet service providers are routinely one of the lowest rated industries for customer satisfaction. This leads us to believe that the problem is not with the broadband connections themselves, but the billing and customer service issues that come along with them.

Our methodology

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a survey commissioned by Allconnect and conducted by the market research firm YouGov. The total sample size was 1,214 U.S. adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between May 14-17, 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighed and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18+).

36% of Americans don’t know their internet speed

Overall, 36% of Americans don’t know the internet speed they get in their homes. That might seem like a large number considering internet plans often top $100/mo., but it’s actually much lower than in recent years. 

The percentage of Americans who do not know their speed “is down from 66% in 2015, and 77% in 2010,” according to Bruce Leichtman, the president and principal analyst of Leichtman Research Group, Inc., a firm that specializes in research and analysis of broadband and media industries.

“Men are significantly more likely to report that they know the speed of their service than are women,” said Leichtman. According to our survey, 47% of women didn’t know what internet speed they were getting, compared to just 25% of men. 

While men may be more focused on the specific speed of the service than are women, ultimately all consumers tend to want a service that is reliable, fast enough to fit their online needs, and is a good value.

Bruce Leichtman

People over the age of 55 also fit into this category, with 45% reporting that they didn’t know their internet speed. 

There was some correlation between income and internet knowledge, too, but it wasn’t quite as strong as age or gender. Around 36% of those making under $40K didn’t know their speed — the same rate as the country as a whole — but that number shrinks to only 30% for people making over $80K.

Most people are still satisfied with their speed

Overall, 30% of respondents said they “strongly agree” that they’re satisfied with the internet speed they’re getting, and 36% said they “somewhat agree.” On the other end, only 8% said they “strongly disagree” and 12% said “somewhat disagree.” This was a surprising result, considering around 15% of Americans receive slower speeds in practice than they’re paying for. 

This trend held true even when respondents didn’t know what speed they were getting. 36% of Americans don’t know the internet speed they get to their house, but only 20% of them said they were dissatisfied with their service.

Of the 47% of women who didn’t know their internet speed, only 20% said they were dissatisfied with their service. Men, on the other hand, were more satisfied — only 19% said they’re dissatisfied with their speeds — and only 25% reported not knowing their speeds.

Similarly, those making under $40K also had a 20% dissatisfaction rate, despite 36% not knowing their speed.

The one group that was less happy with their service was people over the age of 55. The 45% of this group who didn’t know their internet speed had the largest dissatisfaction rate around speeds, with 23% unhappy with the speeds they receive.

Surprisingly, knowing your internet speed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happier with it. “There is actually not a significant difference in satisfaction between those that report having internet service with download speeds over 50 Mbps, and those that don’t know their speed,” Leicthman told us. “However, those that report having internet speeds under 50 Mbps are significantly less satisfied than both other groups.”

Speed isn’t the issue for most people

For many people, these positive sentiments probably look a little too rosy. Aren’t internet service providers mostly known for long hold times and unexpected price hikes? While most people are actually pretty satisfied with the internet speed they’re getting, that doesn’t mean they’re happy with the process as a whole. 

In the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s most recent update, internet service providers ranked dead last out of the 16 industries that received a score. Consumer Reports’ rankings tell a similar story: Almost every nationwide internet provider received low scores for value and technical support, while reliability and speed were typically scored higher. 

So while the speeds that Americans receive are satisfactory for most people — good for 11th fastest in the world — the rest of the process leaves a lot to be desired. We pay about $6 more than Asia, $7 more than North America as a whole and $24 more than Europe, and the customer service experience is often frustrating. 

73% of Americans don’t know how much internet speed they need

While a large percentage of people don’t know what speed they’re getting, twice as many don’t know how much internet speed they actually need. This group also heavily favored women: 83% of women said they didn’t know how much internet they need compared to only 62% of men. Additionally, 95% of women who don’t know their speeds don’t know what they need.

There was also a significant difference with younger men and women. 74% of women between 18 and 34 didn’t know what speed they need, compared to only 40% of men in the same age group. 

Lower-income households were also slightly overrepresented in this category, with 76% of those making less than $40K saying they didn’t know what speed they need compared to 73% for the country as a whole.

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Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Senior Writer, Broadband Content

Joe oversees all things broadband for Allconnect. His work has been referenced by Yahoo!, Lifehacker and more. He has utilized thousands of data points to build a library of metrics to help users navigate these … Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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