Why are the Japanese so much faster than Americans?

Andrew Wong/Getty Images Sport According to a new study (PDF) conducted by the Communications Workers for America, a union for telecom employees, the United States is a sluggish 16th among industrialized nations in terms of Internet speed. The CWA crunched numbers for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and found that the median ...

600973_070625_japan_05.jpg
600973_070625_japan_05.jpg

Andrew Wong/Getty Images Sport

According to a new study (PDF) conducted by the Communications Workers for America, a union for telecom employees, the United States is a sluggish 16th among industrialized nations in terms of Internet speed. The CWA crunched numbers for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and found that the median download speed in the U.S. was 1.9 megabits per second (mbps). It compared that to data from other countries provided by the International Telecommunications Union.

In Japan, which topped the list, the median download speed is 61 mpbs, 30 times faster than in the United States. That means a movie that would take 2 hours to download in the U.S. would only take 2 minutes in Japan.

Andrew Wong/Getty Images Sport

According to a new study (PDF) conducted by the Communications Workers for America, a union for telecom employees, the United States is a sluggish 16th among industrialized nations in terms of Internet speed. The CWA crunched numbers for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and found that the median download speed in the U.S. was 1.9 megabits per second (mbps). It compared that to data from other countries provided by the International Telecommunications Union.

In Japan, which topped the list, the median download speed is 61 mpbs, 30 times faster than in the United States. That means a movie that would take 2 hours to download in the U.S. would only take 2 minutes in Japan.

But never mind entertainment. What about more vital uses for the Internet, such as telemedicine in hospitals, education, and business? The United States needs to do much better. In fact, that 1.9 mbps number probably overstates the speed of American connections. The study claims 80,000 respondents, “nearly all” of whom had cable or DSL connections. Other studies, however, estimate that 30 to 40 percent of Americans are still rockin’ dial-up.

Christine Y. Chen is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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