A recent state-by-state survey of internet access found Montana has the worst internet service in the country with data speeds slightly above half the national average.
Internet service provider HighSpeedInternet.com conducted home internet speeds survey using data collected in 3,105 cities and towns across the United States and from more than 1.7 million laptops, desktops and connected devices in the home. The survey found that average download speeds in Montana average 54.4 megabits per second (Mbps) – last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. According to HighSpeedInternet.com, the national average is 99.3 Mbps.
A bit is a single binary data; either yes or no, enabled or disabled, high or low. Typically, it takes eight bits (one byte) of data to encode a single character of text. There are a million bits of data in a megabit.
Slow internet speeds frequently hamper employees’ ability to work remotely, reduce the functionality of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, delay or interrupt access to large and data-rich electronic files, and interfere with video and music streaming services like Netflix and Spotify.
Most of the states ranked in the bottom 10% for Internet service include large, sparsely populated rural areas. They include Wyoming, ranked 47th at 60.0 Mbps; Maine (48) at 56.3 Mbps; Idaho (49) 55.4 Mbps; West Virginia (50) with 55.2 Mbps; and the trough with Montana (51) at 54.4 Mbps.
Even remote and sparsely populated Alaska ranks higher than Montana, coming in at number 46 with 61.5 Mbps – 13% faster than data speeds in Big Sky Country.
However, some rural states have challenged this model. Nevada, Washington, and Colorado all ranked among the top 15 fastest states with data speeds of over 103.4 Mbps.
The five states with the fastest Internet service are all on the East Coast and include the District of Columbia (5) at 117.7 Mbps; Maryland (4) 118.2 Mbps; Delaware (3) 119.1 Mbps; and New Jersey (2) 120.4 Mbps. Rhode Island has the fastest data transmission rate, reaching 129.0 Mbps, nearly two and a half times faster than Montana’s Internet service.
In recent years, improving broadband Internet access in rural America has become a bipartisan priority for many federal and state lawmakers. In March 2021, a group of four US Senators, including Joe Manchin (D – W. Virginia), Rob Portman (R – Ohio), Michael Bennet (D – Colo.) And Angus King (I – Maine), requested that Federal government controlling agencies are taking immediate action to roll out affordable broadband broadband across the country.
âAsk any senior who connects with their doctor via telemedicine, any farmer who hopes to reap the benefits of precision farming, any student who receives live instruction, or any family where both parents telecommute and many kids are learning remotely, and they’ll tell you that many networks fail to come close to ‘broadband’ in 2021, âthey wrote in a letter to Acting FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel.
Montana Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester have repeatedly called for improved Internet service in rural areas. In a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 20, Tester demanded that any infrastructure bill include significant investments to expand affordable broadband access.
âTwenty years ago, I’m not sure broadband would have been part of an infrastructure bill, but things have changed,â Tester said. âThis pandemic has highlighted that if you want to do business, if you want to do telehealth, or if you want to do distance learning, broadband is damn importantâ¦ the bottom line is that any new broadband must be targeted at rural areas. areas that do not have services or are underserved, and this needs to be done in a way that gets results.
The tester added that the effort must go beyond just spending money, pointing out that access to affordable broadband also requires accurate coverage maps, a well-trained workforce to install the fiber optics and operators who are committed to expanding access in hard-to-reach areas. .
David Murray is a natural resources / agriculture reporter for the Great Falls Tribune. To contact him with comments or ideas for articles; email [email protected] or call (406) 403-3257. To preserve quality and in-depth journalism in north-central Montana subscribe to the Great Falls Tribune.