dispersion of Internet download speeds

Better Internet connectivity tends to be associated with more urban areas, areas with a greater concentration of high-tech industries and employees, and areas with wealthier, more educated populations. These factors, however, do not provide simple explanations for the actual geographic pattern of Internet download speeds from Akamai’s server network.  According to Akamai’s measurements (which include residential and business customers), the U.S. state with the highest average Internet download speed in the second quarter of 2009 was New Hampshire.  New Hampshire is noted for extensive forests, beautiful mountains, and ice fishing.  Illinois, in contrast, includes Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city and long a major hub of trading and banking.  In average Internet download speed, Illinois ranks 45 out of all 51 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.  Illinois’ average Internet download speed is only 46% that of New Hampshire.  While New York state is near the top of the average speed ranking and Alaska is at the bottom, unexpected relative positions, such as those of New Hampshire and Illinois, are prevalent in the ranking.

Unexpected dispersion in Internet download speeds appears in other Akamai data.  Looking at the distribution of download speeds across IP addresses within states, Washington state, which includes the headquarters of Microsoft and other high-tech companies, has among the lowest shares of IP addresses downloading at faster than 768 kbits/s.   That share for Washington is 77%. Nevada and Maine, in comparison, have 98% and 96%, respectively, of IP addresses downloading at faster than 768 kbits/s.[1] Looking at download speeds by cities, the city with the highest average download speed is Sandy City, Utah, and the next highest, Norman, Oklahoma.[2] Most persons have never heard of either.

Dispersion in Internet download speeds suggests that idiosyncratic organizational factors greatly affect Internet connectivity.[3] Technology for providing relatively high-speed Internet access is well understood and widely available. But Internet connectivity impinges on a vast array of organizational activities and interests.  That’s a real Internet congestion problem.

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Data: Internet download speeds across U.S. states and cities, as measured by Akamai (Excel version)


[1]  For the U.S. as a whole, the FCC’s OBI Technical Paper No. 4, Broadband Performance, shows that 88% of U.S. Internet users have actual download speeds greater than 1 Mbps.  See Exhibit 18, which is based on comScore data for the first half of 2009. Few comScore data are publicly available and little is know about the specifics of comScore’s measurements.  See Steve Bauer, David Clark, and William Lehr, “Understanding Broadband Speed Measurements,” pp. 16-7. In the UK in May, 2010, about 92% of residential broadband connections had actual average download speeds greater than 4 Mbps.  See UK Broadband Speeds 2010.  Estimate based on Figures 4.2 and 4.5.

[2]  The set of cities considered are the top-ten cities by IP address density in each state.  See Akamai, “Observed Average Internet Speeds for U.S. Network Connections,” p. 2.

[3] This dispersion does not particularly characterize the U.S.  Considering mobile broadband world-wide in 1Q 2010, Akamai observed:

we see that there is an extremely wide range in average connection speeds – oddly enough, the highest (7175 Kbps) and the lowest (105 Kbps) were both seen on providers in Slovakia.

See Akamai, State of the Internet, 1st Quarter, 2010 Report, p. 25.

understanding lack of interest in broadband speed

A person living in Arlington, Virginia, measured his Internet connection quality using the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Broadband Test. He found his Internet download speed to be about 750 kilobits per second (kbits/s).  Studying Akamai data on observed average Internet speeds, I found that only about 2% of Internet addresses (from business and residential users) in Arlington, Virginia, have Internet connections this slow or slower.

Under a promise of anonymity, I interviewed this unusual, technologically backward Internet user to try to understand why he doesn’t upgrade to faster Internet connectivity. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of that interview:

Why don’t you upgrade to a faster Internet connection?

Because I’m cheap and lazy.  What I have is good enough.

What do you pay per month for Internet connectivity?

I pay $23.99 per month for Verizon’s “Internet 768/128” service. Plus they tack on about $10 a month worth of incomprehensible charges.  Maybe those are for Internet, too, although I think I paid them even when I just had phone service.

How much would it cost you to get faster Internet connectivity?

I don’t know.  Every month I get several offers in the mail.  They don’t make it easy to figure out how much in total the new service actually costs and how much faster it is.   So I just throw the offers out. I’m lazy.

Don’t you want faster connectivity?

Sure.  But I’m cheap and I’m lazy.

But with faster connectivity you’d save time.

I do my laundry in a laundry room in the basement of my four-story apartment building.  I’ve got to walk up and down four flights of stairs to do my laundry.  That wastes more time than my slow Internet connection.

With faster connectivity you could watch more video on the Internet.

I watch the videos that are worth watching.  Watching more wastes time.

What about online virtual worlds?  Every heard of World of Warcraft?

Yup.  When I’m old and bedridden, I’ll play that.  And I’ll read the newspaper, if it’s still around.

What about video conferencing?

With prostitutes?

No, I mean for meetings and stuff.

I prefer to meet in the flesh.

You have no idea of all the great things you can do with high-speed Internet connectivity.

How am I supposed to find out? Verizon keeps raising its rate for my slow connection. If I sign up for high-speed Internet, they’ll just get me faster.

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What that guy said reminds me of what an old farmer said. See the video below. They seem related. Just goes to show why making progress in the communications industry is so difficult.

COB-50: impacting cinematography

viewing Gutiérrez’s Death of a Bureaucrat

La Meurte de un burócrata, which was made in 1966 by the Cuban Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and which is transliterated into English as The Death of a Bureaucrat, is an important film for viewers to view so that by that means the viewer will come to appreciate the importance of following appropriate procedures when engaged in burying a dead person when a claim for a pension is to be filed, so that the claim can be processed without unnecessary delay.  The length of the film is 85 minutes.  The format of the film is black and white.  The language of the film is Spanish.  The sound mix of the film is mono. It is recommended that this film be shown in schools, where the ages of the pupils are 15 to 18 years old, so that they do not misinterpret the meaning of the film, which should be preceded by a Powerpoint presentation outlining the key points.  In accordance with the results-based viewing standards established under LT-156/C, the standard evaluation form WTF-71 should be distributed after the showing.  Viewers should not be allowed to leave the cinema until the completed form is handed in to Evaluation Coordinator, who should ensure that the cinema doors are securely locked after the film begins and until such time as the Projection Director certifies that the viewing has impacted the viewers.

This month’s other bureaucratic issues:

We note Paul Day’s list of  “12 ways to design bureaucracy-free organizations.”  This list is no cause for concern. Eliminating bureaucracy from an organization will leave only entrepreneurs.  Then the organization will completely cease functioning and die.  Darwinian survival of the survivalists continually reproduces bureaucracy.

Bureaucrats in Berlin reported for duty despite 37-degree Celsius heat.  The workers went home only when management ordered them to do so.

Svetlana Gladkova at profy reports that a social network has been set up to serve Russian bureaucrats.  She is concerned that, given the crushing burden of work that they face, Russian bureaucrats lack time to participate in a social network. The obvious answer is to hire more bureaucrats so that all necessary tasks can be completed.

According to John M. Glionna at the Los Angeles Times, some Chinese officials are urging Chinese government bureaucrats to work less in giving speeches.  Those officials are lazy and foolish.  A woman outside a Beijing coffee shop noted:

This is just the way all Chinese express themselves in public. It’s in our heritage and goes back to the way old Chinese poems were constructed.

The Chinese Ministry of Planning Production Affairs should hire this woman into a senior position.

James Otteson at Pileus laments that New Jersey officials did not correctly fill out a federal form and hence lost a $400 million grant.  This story shows that the federal government has greater bureaucratic competence than does the New Jersey government.  New Jersey should commission a task force to create a report on how to improve New Jersey’s bureaucratic competence.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats. Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here. Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

knowledge from the nineteenth century to now

stuffed birds in a cabinet

In a nineteenth century dataset, cabinets group birds at a high level of similarity.  Each cabinet contains stuffed and mounted birds, arranged roughly in a grid.  On the top row of this cabinet are three flycatchers followed by three kingbirds.  On the second row are two kingbirds follwed by four flycatchers.  The next row displays a flycather, three phoebe’s, and then three flycatchers. The bottom row has an Eastern Pewee, a Western Pewee, three flycatchers, and then a Rose-Throated Becard.

The colored poster-board tags next to each bird provide textual information grouped into three fields.  The top textual field contains the common name.  The middle textual field contains genus followed by species. The lowest textual field records unstructured information about the bird’s geographic distribution, habitat, breeding, and other characteristics.

If you want to query this database, you have to go to the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and search among the birds in the cabinets.  Databases like this represented the leading edge of knowledge about a century and a half ago.

At the leading edge of knowledge today are database tools like Needle.  Needle organizes a database as a graph of data nodes (pictures, names, text), so that types of information can easily have a wide variety of relationships.  Needle provides a powerful query language that can quickly produce much different views of data.  Needle makes a database live, active, and accessible anywhere through the Internet.

A knowledge revolution has occurred.  The challenge is to bring it to good practice.