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US broadband speeds 15 years behind South Korea

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You can't escape ads on US TV each day from Comcast, AT&T, Sprint or some other provider crowing about how they are making their networks faster for TV, internet and phone.

Fast is relative, though, and it seems broadband is only inching forward in the US, with the country calculated to be 15 years behind speed leader South Korea.

That's according to research from the Communications Workers of America, which said internet speed in the US increased by just 1.6Mbps between 2007 and 2009.

The union's report also found the slowest speeds in the Southern and Western states of the US. Former governor Sarah Palin's Alaska has the slowest connection speeds of 2.3Mbps, beating Idaho, Arkansas, South Carolina and Mississippi in the race to the bottom.

The average US speed is 5.1Mbps, compared with 20.4Mbps in South Korea, the report concluded.

The CWA's 2009 Speed Matters Speed Test found just 20 per cent of US internet users enjoy speeds on a par with the world's top three fastest web surfing nations - South Korea, Japan and Sweden.

Eighteen per cent failed to meet the Federal Communications Commission's own definition for "current generation" broadband as an always on connection of at least 768Kbps, the report said. The data was polled from more than 413,000 web users, between May 2008 and 2009.

"At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current internet speeds in South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet connections," the CWA said.

The union used its findings to endorse US president Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed earlier this year, which called for a national broadband plan by spring 2010 and $7.2 billion in grants for rolling out broadband to underserved areas.

Major US telcos, though, look like they won't accept the government's pump-priming money.

"The United States is still the only industrialized country without a national policy to promote high-speed Internet access, but that is set to change," the CWA said.

Full rankings in the report are here. ®

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