FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.
Do you feel like your online life is moving ahead somewhat out of control at warp speed? Well, according to the third annual Speed Matters survey by the Communications Worker of America (CWA), we need to pick up the pace of the Internet here in the United States. Indeed, the CWA concludes that speed of the Internet in the US is continuing to fall behind other countries.
The most recent speedmatters.org survey for 2009 indicates that the average download speed in the US is 5.1 megabits per second (mbps), with the average upload speed being 1.1 mbps. These speeds are only slightly higher than in 2008. But more importantly, according to the CWA, at the current rate it would take the US 15 years to catch up to a country like South Korea.
In South Korea, the average download speed is 20.4 mbps, four times faster than in the US. The US, as set forth in the survey, ranks 28th in the world in terms of average Internet connection speeds, and is behind countries like Japan at 15.8 mbps, Sweden at 12.8 mbps and the Netherlands at 11.0 mbps.
The CWA stresses that the lack of relative Internet speed has real consequences in the US, such as the inability to transmit large files such as medical records. The CWA states that "speed makes all the difference on the Internet," noting that while current generation broadband, typically DSL or cable modem connections, provides enough capacity to transmit emails, browse Web sites or watch 10 minute videos online, they are not sufficient to handle high-definition video streaming.
Next-generation broadband allows sufficient capacity for the transmission of multiple video channels, large data files, medical diagnostics, and to engage in real-time video conferencing, as stated by the CWA. The CWA notes that these activities require at least 10 mbps for download and upload speeds, and that fiber-to-the-home networks can provide 100 mbps in both directions.
At the end of the day, the CWA asserts that "U.S. economic growth depends on a high-speed Internet." Nevertheless, the CWA complains that the US is the only industrialized country without a national policy to promote high-speed broadband.
But, as recognized by the CWA, by way of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Federal Communications Commission was instructed to develop a national broadband plan. The CWA is pleased that the FCC is working on that plan, and the CWA supports other efforts designed to create a faster Internet for the US.
So, if you already felt like you were living in the Internet fast lane - think again; you may be pulled faster into the online future that you can imagine now.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.
This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.