- A new report compiles the fastest and slowest internet speeds in small towns across the United States
- The search is self-selected from people who have searched for a speed test website.
- Small rural towns are among the last to receive high-speed Internet service due to their distance from urban centers.
If you lived in rural America in the 1990s or early 2000s, you already know that internet coverage can be very hit or miss. Now, a new report highlights this reality, highlighting the 10 small towns in the United States with the fastest and slowest average internet speeds to date.
To compile this report, Satellite Internet, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, monitored access to a proprietary speed test website for more than an entire year. It plotted the results based on the IP addresses of those who used the website, then counted the results from the top-rated cities.
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To be clear, this research is unscientific and not peer-reviewed – it’s just interesting data from a specific website over time. Cities had to have at least five speed tests to count in the count.
According to the report, the small towns in the United States with the fastest internet speeds are:
- Plattsburgh, NY
- Mount Sterling, Kentucky
- Alice, TX
- Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania
- Heber, Utah
- Clarksdale, Mississippi
- Sydney, Ohio
- Gainesville, TX
- Kirkville, Missouri
- Greenwood, South Carolina
There is an interesting catch-22 here. People who are happy with the quality of their internet coverage over time are unlikely to take a speed test in the first place. You might choose to run one now out of curiosity (and yes, we have a guide for that), but for the most part people seem to judge their internet speed by whether or not it performs the tasks they want him to perform. Why would you pause a smooth and uneventful Netflix stream to run a speed test? It’s like calling customer service and waiting on hold for a product that isn’t faulty in the first place.
Plattsburgh, New York’s median speed was over 242 megabits per second (Mbps), nearly three times faster than the highest speed in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. It’s also nearly eight times faster than the No. 10 fastest speed in Greenwood, South Carolina. Keep in mind that with a threshold of just five speed tests per year, this could really be the result of someone in Plattsburgh testing their astronomical speed once every two months out of curiosity.
Meanwhile, the small towns in the US with the slowest internet speeds are:
- Hutchinson, Kansas
- Coos Bay, OR
- Brevard, North Carolina
- Lincoln, Ill.
- Indiana, Pennsylvania
- Ellensburg, Washington
- Somerset, Pennsylvania
- Ontario, Oregon
- Pottsville, Pennsylvania
- Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Lincoln, Illinois has the reputation of being the only place named after Abraham Lincoln long before he became President of the United States. It’s a small rural town with a few small colleges as well as two prisons, so it’s easy to imagine many different people interested in internet speeds. It could be students testing pipe sizes on move-in day, or frustrated prisoners trying to access data in their limited time on the computer.
A recent episode of the podcast “99% invisible” explored why internet access is still so unequal for so many people. (While this report studied small towns, “99% Invisible” explains that even one in five New Yorkers still does not have internet access. Pew Research says that approximately 75% of Americans have high-speed Internet access at home from 2021.)
The problem is how the infrastructure deploys in general. First, you need a major road, pipe, or cable that connects major cities (or even entire countries) to each other. Then you need a smaller cable to connect people within those population centers. After that, long trailing cables must go to each of the small towns, and then to the individual houses outside of those small towns.
Someone watches the huge cable that connects New York to Chicago, for example, but who watches the last leg from Springfield to Lincoln, Illinois, and the thousands of other small cables that look like it? It is a much more complex problem to manage.
“99% Invisible” tells the story of Detroit, Michigan, which was the least connected city in 2014, with only 60% of residents having internet access at the time. To solve the problem, residents launched a groundswell to cover the city with equipment like signal repeaters and relays that turned parts of the city into ersatz “mesh” networks where many more people could connect. .
So if you live in one of the small towns with the worst internet speeds, your solution might be all around you.
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