In 2014, average peak Internet connection speeds in the United States have reached 40.6 Mbps and the number of Internet connections above 10 Mbps has jumped 62 percent in a year.
We can expect these numbers to keep increasing as more ISPs are offering broadband tiers that are well into the hundreds of megabits per second.
But a common and logical question is how much speed is enough? We know that surfing the web and checking email doesn’t require much horsepower. But what about streaming video and music?
For streaming video, Netflix recommends a broadband connection speed of 5 Mbps for HD content. About the same goes for YouTube and Hulu. For HD video calling, Skype recommends a 1.5 Mbps connection. So even if your household is doing some major multitasking, the average broadband connection provides more than enough speed to enjoy these services.
While the future is unpredictable, we do know that 4K video is coming to the web soon and the sheer amount of content that will be available on the Internet will only grow. Netflix and YouTube may not always account for nearly half of America’s peak Internet traffic, as they currently do. But it’s almost guaranteed that online video content will increase in size and quality, the Internet of things market will connect even more devices in and out of the home, and that there will be products and services that depend on broadband that we can’t conceive of today.
So even if we can’t gaze into a crystal ball, we can bet the Internet traffic pie will be sliced in ways that will require more speed and more robust networks.
That’s why Cox Communications is planning on rolling out gigabit Internet speeds to markets across the country. And why Bright House Networks plans to connect a community of homes with gigabit Internet in Florida this summer. It’s why Charter Communications tripled their entry-level Internet speeds from 30 to 100 Mbps to customers in the St. Louis area for no additional cost. And it’s why Suddenlink Communications launched a new 300 Mbps tier across select markets in Texas.
These companies know that while the future is unpredictable, change and growth are inevitable. Cable broadband providers invest billions each year to make sure that their networks enable the ultra-fast speeds we may not need today, but could need soon. In 2013 alone, cable operators invested roughly $14 billion in their networks and other infrastructure.
While we could engage in relentless mind-numbing debates over international speed rankings, it’s a much more relevant exercise to focus on real performance and what America’s broadband networks enable.
And if you look at the numbers from groups like Akamai and the FCC’s recent Measuring Broadband America report, the evidence is pretty compelling that American broadband isn’t taking a back seat to Latvia or anyone else.