- Report says United States has 9th-fastest Internet speed in the world
- That's down from 8th last year, as the U.S. is leapfrogged by Sweden
- Geography, population, industry are factors
- South Korea has fastest connections, 60% quicker than United States
Land of the free. Home of the brave. Bastion of mediocre Internet speeds.
Already getting clobbered by countries like South Korea and Japan, the United States is close to falling out of the top 10 nations in terms of Internet-connection speeds, according to a new report.
The United States fell from 8th to 9th after being passed by Sweden in the first quarter of this year, according to networking firm Akamai's quarterly State of the Internet report. Akamai handles about one-third of the world's Web traffic.
The other countries with quicker Web connections than the United States? Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia and the Czech Republic.
The slip comes despite average U.S. speeds going up 27% from the same time last year, according to Akamai.
In some ways, the United States is at a disadvantage when it comes to fast connections. Its sprawling size and hefty population can make building efficient broadband networks a challenge. But critics argue that a relative lack of competition among service providers also hurts.
Susan Crawford, a tech policy analyst and professor at Cardozo Law School in New York City, argues that Internet access should be a public utility like gas, electricity and water because it has become just as essential.
In her book, "Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New Guilded Age," she says a lack of regulation in the Unites States has allowed a small number of companies to dominate the broadband market, meaning consumers have fewer choices and pay higher prices.
"In Seoul, when you move into an apartment, you have a choice of three or four providers selling you symmetric fiber access for $30 per month, and installation happens in one day," Crawford told TIME earlier this year. "That's unthinkable in the United States. And the idea that the country that invented the Internet can't get online is beyond my imagination."
Akamai reported that the average Web connection in the United States was 8.6 megabits per second. South Korea's average was 14.2 megabits per second.
Of course, some folks in the United States have it better than others. In some regions of the country, residents still don't even have basic connections to high-speed Internet.
But if you live or work in Vermont, you're in pretty good shape. Average speeds there are 12.7 megabits per second -- meaning connections in the Green Mountain State are, on average, faster than Japan's.
Looking for speedy Internet elsewhere in the U.S.? New Hampshire, Delaware, the District of Columbia and Utah round out the top five spots.