This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Ever get frustrated by buffering video when trying to use your Netflix account? Has the Internet ever slowed to a crawl because your gamer kid is sucking up the bandwidth?
It could be worse you could live in Idaho.
Believe it or not, Utah has the highest Internet speeds in the Intermountain West and among the highest in the nation, while our neighbor to the north is at the other end of the spectrum. The difference, according to experts, comes down to competition among Internet providers, government investment and a population packed tightly.
Still, Internet access has yet to achieve the reliability of electricity, but that appears to be the goal.
The United States has seen a rapid increase in the availability of high-speed-Internet access in recent years. Nationally, 79 percent of people have access to Internet with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, while in Utah, it's 95 percent, according to a new report by the Utah Foundation. A little more than a third of Utah households pay for such fast speeds. Maybe that's why Netflix isn't loading as fast as you would like.
Let's look at Internet speed in another way. Every time you type a command into a browser, say you click a story on sltrib.com, it creates connections with servers housing the info you want. Akamai is a massive online delivery network that serves as a middleman, facilitating more than 2 trillion connections worldwide per day, and this Massachusetts-based company tracks how fast it takes individual computers to load a given page or download a movie or song.
Akamai identifies the fastest speed registered by each individual Internet Protocol (IP) address and uses it to create a statewide average of peak speeds.
In the second quarter of 2015, Utah's average peak speed was 61 megabits per second (mbps), the 11th fastest in the nation. Washington, D.C., recorded the fastest speeds, of 72.7 mbps, while Kentucky came in last at 35.7 mbps. Idaho ranked 47th at 39.9 mbps. The national average was 50.4 mbps.
To put that in perspective, the national average in 2007 was 9.23 mbps and Utah was just average that year.
David Belson, the editor of Akamai's State of the Internet report, says states with faster peak speeds have quicker download times for downloading large files, which more often than not are games, movies or software.
That's good for consumers and is key for high-tech businesses and emerging sectors like telehealth.
Utah's faster-than-average rise in speeds wasn't an accident.
"One of the things Utah has done to set us apart is the level of collaboration between public and private," said Kelleigh Cole, the broadband outreach director for the state of Utah.
As an example, she said the Utah Department of Transportation works with Internet service providers to install fiber during construction, and if a partner isn't available, the state will install conduits it will later exchange for other services.
The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) also helps schools districts get federal grants to boost Internet availability, allowing more students to do more online in a given classroom. This coordinated effort means high-speed service can reach even the state's more far-flung places.
Consider the cooperation between the tiny Park Valley School and Bear River High School in the state's northwestern corner.
Park Valley takes care of students from kindergarten through 10th grade. After that, the students have traditionally either moved to Garland, which is an hour east, or commuted long distances to attend Bear River High.
Now they can take advantage of interactive video conferencing. Janette Tomkinson, a teacher at Bear River, said her classroom is wired with cameras and microphones, allowing Park Valley students to see, hear and participate in her lectures in real time.
Six Park Valley students are taking English this way; two are taking a math class. And none of it would have been possible without government help to bring high-speed Internet into rural northern Utah. UETN reports that 9,000 students in higher education and public education are using similar interactive video conferencing.
Most states are not so coordinated, but Utah's leaders see it as an economic-development necessity.
The state has successfully attracted tech companies ranging from Google to eBay, and it wants more.
"It is important to make sure we are competitive. If businesses are looking to come to Utah, we want them to be able to have the speeds to be able to do that," Cole said.
The state also has benefited from having the highest percentage of urban dwellers in the nation, according to the Census Bureau, which makes it easier to provide top-notch Internet access, and from having a competitive environment.
Provo and Salt Lake City are two of just nine Google Fiber cities, where the online behemoth is installing 1-gigabit-per-second (gbps) service, though expansion plans are underway. Not to be outdone, Comcast has boosted its available speeds and set a course for a 2-gbps service in Utah, while CenturyLink has rolled out its own high-speed service.
Few places have the combination of government support, urban density and such intense corporate competition. Utah is in the middle of an Internet arms race and likely will benefit from it.
As the Utah Foundation report noted: "Having a technological infrastructure in place is as essential for an expanding economy as the highway, rail, airport and shipping networks that allow the rapid transport of people and products around the globe."
And more relevant for Utah's residents it should make it easier to download a game, stream a video and play on smartphones all at the same time.