With the rapid adoption of Zoom calls, online meetings, high resolution movie streaming and multiplayer internet games, demand for increased bandwidth shot through the roof over the last 18 months. Fortunately, the internet speeds experienced by the average Floridian met that demand with an increase of 44.1 percent over the past year, according to a survey released this week that compared internet speed test results this year versus the start of the pandemic.
Experts who analyzed the data suggest that the coronavirus pandemic may be partly responsible for the dramatic increase, spurring consumers to upgrade their household internet plans. But a confluence of other factors, including infrastructure investments by internet service providers (ISPs), which made those upgrades possible, also played a role in the speed surge.
While the survey data showed the United States as a whole get a speed boost of 40 percent overall, Florida managed to outpace the national average, and is expected to see even more speed surges in the coming years, with most major internet service providers in the state making significant investments in their data delivery infrastructure.
“Our members were ready for the demands of the pandemic, after investing over $10 billion in the past decade,” said Brad Swanson, President of Florida Internet and Television, an industry group with major telecom providers as members. “Florida’s major internet providers only experienced a 1 percent lag for about the first 30 days of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
After that, Swanson said, most of the bottlenecks were ironed out and ISPs were able to meet increasing demands for bandwidth. And, he says, those speeds are only going to increase in the years ahead.
The survey data, conducted by WhistleOut, a consumer internet comparison tool, showed that prior to the pandemic, internet speeds in the United States averaged 84.5 megabits per second. Since then, the survey found, those speeds rose to an average of 118.4Mbps, enough to handle several simultaneous 4K movie streams on Netflix without a noticeable drop in quality.
“Our providers were already moving to gigabit available platforms prior to 2020,” Swanson said. “With our expanding technology, we are moving to 10 gigabit available technology in the next few years to ensure that Florida continues to lead as one of the most connected states in the nation well into the future.”
For comparison, internet speeds of one gigabit per second (1 Gbps) is 1,000 times as fast as 1 Mbps, or just under 10 times as fast as the current Florida average, and 10 Gbps internet speed would be about 100 times as fast as the state average. This means that for the average consumer, Florida’s top internet service providers are already capable of delivering more than enough bandwidth to meet demand. The infrastructure is already largely in place, but accessing those speeds is a matter of family budget affordability and need.
Data from the WhistleOut survey suggested that the pandemic made working, studying, streaming television, movies and gaming at home the norm, making a reliable home network a top priority for most families. There has also been increased demand from other devices and home appliances, including home security cameras, smart fridges, wireless printers, speakers and other devices all vying for a portion of the bandwidth.
The WhistleOut survey was conducted using data from 907,233 speed test results. Data analysts compared the average download speed in each U.S. state before the COVID-19 pandemic (December 2019 through March 2020) against more recent data (May 2021 through mid-August 2021) to calculate the speed differences. To ensure accuracy, WhistleOut says they eliminated duplicate IP address and also removed cellular speed tests.