by Mike Hall
Are you one of the millions of Americans in rural or low-income urban areas who doesn’t have access to high-speed Internet and can only go online via frustratingly slow dial-up? You wait and wait for a connection so you can pay a bill, find some important medical information, or just the latest ball score.
Or maybe you’ve got so-called “high-speed” Internet access and the big monthly bill that goes with it. But you still find yourself watching that darn little hourglass on your screen, drumming your fingers and muttering, “What am I paying for? Might as well go back to flippin’ dial–up.”
You can find out just how fast your Internet speed is and at the same time help promote a national broadband policy.
Speed Matters, a campaign by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), is part of the union’s effort to promote national and state policies for affordable, universal high-speed broadband networks and end the digital divide. One of the campaign’s tools is the Speed Matters test that measures just how fast your Internet connection is and if you’re getting what your provider says you are. Click here to take the speed test.
Last year, after more than 80,000 Americans sat down behind their home computers and took the test, Speed Matters issued a state-by-state report that showed state and federal policymakers how far behind the rest of the industrialized world the United States is in developing a reliable high-speed broadband network. USA Today described the results this way:
The USA trails other industrialized nations in high-speed Internet access and may never catch up unless quick action is taken by public-policymakers, a report commissioned by the Communications Workers of America warns.
The median U.S. download speed now is 1.97 megabits per second—a fraction of the 61 megabits per second enjoyed by consumers in Japan, says the report released Monday. Other speedy countries include South Korea (median 45 megabits), France (17 megabits) and Canada (7 megabits).
“We have pathetic speeds compared to the rest of the world,” CWA President Larry Cohen says. “People don’t pay attention to the fact that the country that started the commercial Internet is falling woefully behind.”
Following that report, state broadband initiatives were developed in Ohio, West Virginia,Tennessee, Washington State and elsewhere. The findings also were used to help convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change its definition of high-speed Internet and urge Congress to adopt a national broadband policy, complete with a broadband map of America.
CWA will be releasing its second annual state-by-state report this summer, and they need as many people as possible to take the speed test.