3 Megabits per second (Mbps). That’s the peak download speed of Sprint’s 3G mobile phone service. That’s also how Iowa and the United States define ‘broadband’ Internet access: a minimum of 3 Mbps download speed and 0.75 Mbps upload speed. Only 66% of Iowans have access to even this minimal level of ‘broadband’ in their homes. Moreover, one out of every four Iowa businesses is not accessing so-called ‘broadband’ services.
Take a look the map below. See all of the areas that are light green, yellow, or tan? Those are areas for which the maximum – yes, maximum – advertised download speed (as collected by ConnectIowa) is 3 to 6 Mbps or less. That’s the same as Sprint’s 4G mobile phone service. And that’s maximum advertised speed, not even regularly available speed. Those of us with ‘broadband’ access know that these are very different.
According to Akamai, the average connection speed in the U.S. is 7.6 Mbps but the average speed for Iowa is only 6.0 Mbps. Out of 12 states in the Midwest, Iowa’s average Internet connection speed is 11th, better than only Kansas. Even worse, Iowa’s broadband adoption rate dropped 11% from 3rd quarter to 4th quarter in 2012, the only state with a quarterly loss greater than 10%. Most states had adoption rate gains, not losses.
When most of Iowa has anemic Internet access, that doesn’t bode well for economic viability. When most regions in Iowa have Internet access that at best is what we get on a smartphone, that’s not a platform for economic, workforce, and entrepreneurial success.
Today the Internet is essential infrastructure, supporting the ability of individuals and organizations to innovate, build, sell, and serve. Everything is moving to the Web but right now Iowa is far, far behind what it needs for a hyperconnected, hypercompetitive digital, global economy.