Internet speeds here slower than average

Friday, February 1, 2008

A new study by a non-profit group shows that Marshall County residents have lower broadband Internet speeds and that fewer use high-speed service compared to the state average.

Connected Tennessee has released a county-by-county reading of average Internet speeds across the state. The maps are intended to give broadband providers and state policy makers information on which communities need higher quality Internet service.

Broadband refers to high-speed Internet service, usually meaning either cable Internet (furnished by cable TV companies such as Charter Communications) or DSL (provided by telephone companies like AT&T, formerly known as BellSouth).

Compared to the statewide average, Marshall County has a lower average download speed. The maps reveal that the average statewide upload speed is 575 Kbps and the average statewide download speed is 3.4 megabits per second (Mbps).

The maps also show where broadband service is available in each Tennessee county.

According to the assessment, 71 percent of Marshall County residents have a computer at home, the same percentage as statewide. A total of 65 percent of county residents have Internet service at home, also the same as the rest of the state.

However, just 31 percent reported having broadband service at home while 43 percent of Tennesseans have the high-speed service.

When county residents without a computer were asked why they do not own a computer, 48 percent said they don't need one, 28 percent said the devices are too expensive, 13 percent claimed they use a computer elsewhere and 25 percent gave other reasons.

There were several reasons given in the asessment why county residents do not have a home Internet connection. Not owning a computer was the response of 53 percent, 36 percent stated they didn't need the Internet, 20 percent said it was too expensive, while 9 percent stated that broadband was unavailable and they didn't want a dial-up connection. Six percent said they could access the Internet elsewhere.

The project surveyed more than 86,000 people from the state's 95 counties through a collective effort between, the Communications Workers of America's Speed Matters Campaign and Connected Tennessee. Internet users can update the data by participating in a speed test on Connected Tennessee's website.

"The data gathered by Connected Tennessee allows us to see for the first time where improvement is needed and work to localize our efforts," said Gov. Phil Bredesen. "Technology adoption and economic development go hand in hand, and we want to work to ensure that Tennesseans everywhere can realize the opportunities that are possible when all communities are truly connected."

The average Tennessean with broadband service can download a typical one megabyte document in less than three seconds. For those on dial-up service, the same process takes almost four minutes.

Fifteen of Tennessee's 95 counties registered significantly lower than the average upload speed, while 30 counties fell short of the average download speed.