- Until the mid-2000s, the global internet speed was still shy of 1 Mbps
- The average download speed in the U.S. in 2017 was 30.74 Mbps
- The average download speed in the U.S. in the first half of 2023 was 138.90 Mbps
- The U.S. is ranked seventh in the world for median internet speed
The internet has come a long way since its inception and is now an integral part of society. Back when the World Wide Web (WWW) was invented in the 90s, the average global connection speed was a mere 14.4 Kbps – that’s less than 1 Mbps. With today’s modem technology, you wouldn’t be able to do much of anything with that speed.
As internet technology advanced, however, so did the need for more speed. The average internet speed in the U.S. has been consistently increasing over the years, and we can expect even faster internet connections in the future.
For this report, Allconnect analyzed speed test data from MLab and internal data from over 200,000 speed tests in the United States collected between June 2020 to March 2023.
How is internet speed measured?
Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and gigabits per second (Gbps). These metrics are the speed at which your internet connection downloads and uploads data, or bits. One Mbps is 1,000,000 bits being transferred per second, and one Gbps is 1,000,000,000 bits being transferred per second.
The higher the number before ‘Mbps’ or ‘Gbps’, the faster the internet speed. These speed metrics help you choose which internet plan you want, so you’ll want to have an idea of what speed you need before you choose a plan.
Analysis of internet speed in the U.S. over time
Dial-up internet was the first internet connection available for public use, but that speed was extremely slow and required a phone line to operate, so it wasn’t long before a faster option emerged.
Until the early-mid 2000s, the average global internet speed was still shy of 1 Mbps, but by 2010 this speed climbed to 10 Mbps.
In the U.S., the average download speed in 2017 was 30.74 Mbps. This steadily increased for the next five years and in the first half of 2023, the average download speed in the U.S. was 138.90 Mbps and is expected to increase during the latter half of the year.
138.90 is a big jump from the early days of internet when the average speed was less than 1 Mbps, but this change reflects the advancement of internet technology.
Modern households often have multiple devices connected simultaneously and need speed to support streaming, gaming, working and learning from home and social media activity.
Average U.S speeds by region and state
The Midwest region has the slowest average internet speeds of any region in the country at 94 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload.
The Northeast region of the U.S. has the fastest average internet speeds in the country, with New Jersey on top with 148/61 Mbps, faster than the national average. Maine has the slowest average speeds with 84/15 Mbps.
Maryland has the fastest speeds in the South and the second fastest in the country with 140/68 Mbps. Arkansas has the slowest speeds in the region and forth-slowest speeds in the country at 83/42 Mbps.
How does the U.S. compare globally?
According to Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index, the U.S. currently ranks seventh in the world for median average internet speed. Singapore ranks first with the United Arab Emirates and Chile at second and third in the world.
While the U.S. is consistently ranked in the Top 10, internet access is not spread equally throughout the country. According to the FCC’s latest broadband availability data, 92% of U.S. households have access to internet speeds of 100 Mbps and above. Still, many rural areas are only left with satellite internet access as an option, which provides slower speeds at a high price.
Fiber internet provides the fastest internet speeds, but its infrastructure is largely concentrated in metropolitan areas leaving other areas with less access to high-speed options.
Many broadband expansion programs are underway to bridge the digital divide, but it remains costly and time-consuming.
The FCC is pushing to increase the minimum broadband speed standard from 25/3 Mbps to 100/20 Mbps, but access to those speeds in unserved and underserved areas will depend on government funding for broadband infrastructure.
Future trends and predictions
Multi-gigabit internet speeds are now common among internet providers in the U.S. Frontier’s fiber service offers 5,000/5,000 Mbps, for example, and Xfinity even offers up to 6,000 Mbps in certain areas.
While these multi-gig connections are pricey, they will likely become the norm in the coming years. It is predicted that the global average internet speed could exceed 10 Gbps in the 2040s and even higher than that in the 2050s if current speed trends continue.
Terabit internet speeds are also on the horizon as internet technology continues to advance. 1 Tbps is 1,000 faster than 1 Gbps. For reference, most households don’t even need 1 Gbps of speed to cover multiple devices streaming, gaming or learning from home at once.
Terabit speeds are already being used in scientific settings, with Department of Energy scientists using a network that reaches up to 46 Tbps, but this won’t be available to the rest of the world for quite some time.
5G internet is the most recent development in wireless internet technology and is predicted to be the future of the digital era. It is expanding rapidly and is appealing due to its affordable and straightforward pricing.
The introduction of 5G networks is both a response to the massive wave of digitization that is sweeping the economy as well as a stimulant to its further expansion…Fifth generation wireless networks will deliver amazing and important new capabilities and services.
5G is expected to continue expanding throughout the country in the coming years, and with faster speeds – Verizon 5G already offers up to 1,000 Mbps with its fastest 5G plan in limited areas.
“With 5G, we can anticipate seeing faster data speeds and higher bandwidth. It’s predicted that this will result in a significant increase in the number of connected devices that rely on fast, reliable data transfers.
Internet speeds have consistently increased every year, mirroring the technological advancements of internet technology since the days when speeds were slower than 1 Mbps. Now, multi-gig connections are the norm and we can expect even faster connections and technologies in the future.
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Written by:Camryn Smith
Camryn Smith is an Associate Writer with Allconnect.com. She specializes in writing about the broadband industry and helping consumers navigate complex internet service purchasing decisions…. Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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