RHODE ISLAND — As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, dining rooms have been turned into classrooms while sofas and coffee tables are doubling as office cubicles.
With so many Ocean State families learning and working remotely, you’re likely discovering how well your home is equipped to deal with our new virtual reality, including whether your internet speed is up to the job.
According to a new ranking by HighSpeedInternet.com, a private firm that compares internet service providers for consumers, the average internet speed in the state is 74.5 mbps, the sixth-fastest in the country — and more than enough to meet the typical demand.
Because these are averages, internet speeds can vary greatly from region to region, with some areas of a particular state enjoying truly high-speed internet and others with access to turtle-pace service or even none at all.
To determine where states placed on the list, HighSpeedInternet.com looked at data from 3 million speed test tool results, took the average speed of every state and ranked them from fastest to slowest.
Here are the 10 states with the fastest internet:
- Maryland (84.1 Mbps)
- Delaware (80.9 Mbps)
- New Jersey (76.3 Mbps)
- District of Columbia (75.2 Mbps)
- Virginia (74.5 Mbps)
- Rhode Island (74.5 Mbps)
- Massachusetts (73.6 Mbps)
- Colorado (70.9 Mbps)
- Washington (67.3 Mbps)
- California (67.2 Mbps)
These are the 10 states with the slowest internet:
- Alaska (20.6 Mbps)
- Montana (30.1 Mbps)
- Maine (30.8 Mbps)
- Idaho (30.9 Mbps)
- Wyoming (33.3 Mbps)
- South Dakota (33.3 Mbps)
- Iowa (35.8 Mbps)
- Arkansas (37.3 Mbps)
- Mississippi (37.9 Mbps)
- Hawaii (38.1 Mbps)
Guaranteed and reliable internet access is especially critical today. School closures due to the coronavirus have affected at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and 55 million students, according to a May report by Education Week. A large majority of the students are completing the school year at home.
Additionally, at least 62 percent of employed Americans say they have worked from home during the coronavirus crisis, a number that’s doubled since mid-March, according to a Gallup poll. In fact, three in five U.S. workers who’ve been working from home would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted.
Of course, learning or working from home isn’t possible without reliable internet access. And while those living in the top-ranked states probably don’t give guaranteed and reliable internet service much thought, not every American’s access is guaranteed or reliable.
In urban school districts with high concentrations of poor students, subscribing to a high-speed internet service is often too expensive.
A 2019 Federal Communications Commission broadband report estimates that more than 21 million people in America — nearly 17 million living in rural communities — don’t have access to broadband. However, a study by BroadbandNow found that the number of unserved people is nearly double the current amount reported by the FCC.
The number of Americans who don’t use high-speed internet is even higher. According to Microsoft, which in 2017 launched the Microsoft Airband Initiative to bring broadband connectivity to people living in underserved rural areas, half of Americans — or 157.3 million people — do not use high-speed internet at all.
While many of these people might have access to broadband, Microsoft says, they usually live in communities without the necessary resources to secure it.
Microsoft has set a goal to provide access to broadband to 3 million people in unserved rural areas of the United States by July 4, 2022. In California, Google said it would provide free Wi-Fi to 100,000 rural California families through the end of the school year, plus 4,000 Chromebook laptops for students.
But what about everyone else? And what about now? Recent legislation passed by Congress did little to address the digital needs of American households, and a $2 billion proposal from Democrats to help expand online access didn’t make it out of the Senate in March, USA Today reported.
In case you missed it, President Donald Trump in March signed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act into law. The legislation is meant to improve the accuracy of maps detailing where broadband is and isn't available in the United States. It’s also expected to change how and what information the FCC collects about broadband access to ensure that the federal government has more granular information about where broadband can be found.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat and member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said in a statement that the act brings the United States one step closer to closing the digital divide.
“This bill will improve the broadband data collection process to create more accurate maps so that we can bring high-speed internet to every family, regardless of their ZIP code,” Klobuchar said.