Now more than ever, Americans’ lives run on broadband, and the ability to get on the Internet with access that’s fast and reliable. This was the case even before the pandemic year of 2020, when most Americans ended up locked at home for months at a time.
In the United States, the quality and reliability of broadband is known to differ greatly depending on geographical locations, and there’s known to be a significant urban/rural divide. This is something that government and providers have been working to solve for some time.
The Fair Internet Report said earlier this fall that U.S. broadband speeds doubled in the U.S. in 2020, due in part to Americans, in the pandemic, signing up for higher-end plans.
Where in the United States is the Internet the best? It depends on who you ask.
According to Broadband Now, in its rankings published in the spring of 2020, the rankings are dominated by states in the Northeast, as the site ranks states by three criteria: Percentage of terrestrial broadband access, percentage with wired low-priced plan access, and the average speed test. The top state in the nation for “the overall strength of its broadband ecosystem” is New Jersey, where 98.1 percent of the population has terrestrial broadband access, with an average speed test of 174.3 Mbps.
Second in those rankings was right next door, New York, with 96.8 percent, where the average speed test was even faster, at 190.5 Mbps. Coming in third was Maryland, with 95.2 percent, and an average speed test of 196.2 Mbps.
In fourth place, according to Broadband Now, was Rhode Island, with 96.2 percent terrestrial broadband access and 163.1 Mbps. And in fifth was Florida, with 92.4 percent terrestrial broadband access and 167.8 Mbps. Rounding out the top five were Illinois, the District of Columbia, Texas, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Alaska came in last, followed by Montana, New Mexico and Nebraska.
Another survey, conducted by Get Internet, also ranked the states by their broadband access- and also listed New Jersey as #1, while giving most of the top spots to states in the Northeast.
Get Internet ranked New Jersey first, followed by Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts. The site ranked Montana worst, followed by Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The site’s criteria weighed both average Internet speed and percent of coverage.
“Large, rural states have less Internet coverage and slower speeds than small, highly-populated states,” Get Internet said of the overall trend, noting that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country.
U.S. News, in its most recent rankings of states by Internet access, used a different criteria and came up with very different results.
The rankings placed Hawaii first, Utah second, Washington third, Oregon fourth and Kansas fifth, with Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Minnesota and New Hampshire rounding out the top ten. Coming in at the bottom of the U.S. News list were Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama and Montana.
“This [broadband access] metric measures the percentage of households with a broadband internet subscription, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey,” U.S. News said. “Across the U.S., more than eight out of every 10 households has a broadband subscription. Rates tend to be lower in states with low population density and vice versa.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.