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Yes, Your Internet Is Very, Very Slow

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Would you like to play a game of baseball...inside of an elevator? Or drive from LA to Vegas in a BMW 7 Series...on a dirt road? If this is what you like, then come to America where your online experience is mostly the same.

A new Federal Communications Commission report confirms what you already knew: millions in this country are still suffering with very slow Internet speeds. So how slow?

First, a quick primer. To see how fast the Internet is, download, upload and average speed (page load) times are measured in Mbps, or megabits per second. This is not to be confused with MBps, which is megabytes per second can clearly see...the "B" is capitalized. No, I am not kidding. No, you are not allowed to kill the next tech guy you see. A good download speed is 25Mbps. The global average for Internet speed is 5.6Mbps.

So again, how slow?

According to this article in Ars Technica that (thankfully) summarizes the FCC report, there are about 25.1 million households with download speeds of less than 25Mbps. Of those, 22.4 million have speeds less than 10Mbps. About 6 million households are downloading at less than 3Mbps. Upload speeds are just as poor for many Americans. More than 25% of homes in this country still don't have a fixed Internet connection at all. The data was from 2015, so improvements are expected.

The average Internet speed across the U.S. during the same period, according to the Akamai State of the Internet report from earlier this year is 14.2 Mbps which is almost three times the global average. But let's not get too excited. We're not even in the top 10 of countries around the world. Businesses and consumers in South Korea (26.7Mbps), The Netherlands (17.0Mbps) and (gulp) Latvia (16.7Mbps) have faster Internet.

Why so slow in the U.S.? Older infrastructure holds back some. Competition among broadband providers in some parts of the country is scarce. And even when available, some people don't want to pay for faster access, preferring to stick with slower, DSL or satellite connections and instead spending their money on stupid things like the mortgage and education. The report also found that only 24% of areas had at least two Internet Service Providers offering broadband with download speeds in excess of 25Mbps.

There is some good news from the report. Download and upload speeds are increasing. Faster broadband access is becoming more available. More households are getting online. South Korea has opened up a toll-free tech support line for its U.S. friends. The most promising is that there are less than three weeks of Hallmark Christmas movies left.

There is a serious lesson for business owners here: the Internet in the U.S. is still not great and still not as accessible as we would like it to be. Software companies are relentlessly pushing their cloud-based apps on us, and device manufacturers promise faster and more responsive hardware. All of that is great -- as long as it works. But if you've got a remote employee, a far-flung independent contractor, a key salesperson who works from the road and they don't have access to adequate Internet service, their productivity will suffer. OK, maybe not as bad as when they try to work online using Gogo Internet on an American Airlines flight -- but it could be significant.

Before moving more of your operations to the cloud and before demanding that your employees enter data from their mobile devices or while on the road, take the time to make sure you've considered their local Internet speeds and make accommodations where necessary. Pay for faster access when available. Consider mobile plans with faster connections. Allow some time for them to do data entry when they're better placed. Lower your expectations for when they're mobile. Otherwise they'll get frustrated and so will you.

The cloud relies on the Internet, and the Internet in this country still needs a lot of improvement. This is a fact, and we need to adjust to that reality.

A version of this column originally appeared on

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