by Anam Alpenia
The Obamas raised eyebrows this weekend by complaining about, of all things, spotty Wifi in the White House. “It can be a little sketchy,” the First Lady told CBS’ Gayle King, adding that their daughters, Sasha and Malia, can “get real irritated sometimes.”
You’d imagine that the official residence of the world’s most powerful family would have a pretty solid wifi connection. Apparently not. “We’ve been tryin’ to get that straight for the next group of folks, because it is an old building. And – so there are a lot of dead spots where wi-fi doesn’t work,” the President added.
But the White House isn’t the only place you might be surprised to hear suffers from lacklustre web speeds. Some of the world’s most advanced nations and cities still lag far behind when it comes to surfing the net with ease. Here are four that have shocked Red Herring today:
The Emerald City might have Microsoft’s corporate headquarters located just a few miles away in suburban Redmond. But that will be little consolation to many residents of the Pacific Northwest’s largest metropolis, whose CenturyLink customers were suffering speeds slower than that of 90s dial-up.
M-Lab, the researcher whose June 2015 study threw up the result, also found that AT&T customers in Chicago could experience similar issues between the hours of 4pm and 11pm. This is because of disputes between Internet service providers (ISPs) and ‘Tier-1 networks’ that distribute content. When that happens, the ISPs will often refuse to broaden the ‘pipe’ for Tier-1s, which causes bottlenecks.
The 3.5 million-strong capital of Europe’s economic powerhouse might have a reputation as one of its flourishing tech centers. But Berlin is far from ahead of the game when it comes to internet speeds. A 2013 report found that barely one in five Berliners receives an ISP’s advertised speed.
It is something that has been targeted by the German government as part of its ‘Industrie 4.0’ campaign and a frequent bette noire of entrepreneurs up and down ‘Silicon Allee’. Deutsche Telekom, the city’s largest provider, had admitted that, “for physical and technical reasons,” it can only offer customers “some kind of range of speeds in our tariffs.” This reporter can safely testify that whatever that range is, it’s not very impressive.
This picturesque town, on the Thames Estuary, is just an hour’s commute from the City of London and a popular executives’ haunt. Yet according to a 2014 report by uSwitch.com it shares bottom place for British internet speeds with Erw Fawr, a hamlet of just a couple of hundred people, in rural Wales.
An average download speed in both locations is just 0.6MBs, which is just one-thirtieth of the nation’s average of 17.8MBs. That translates to around a 15.2 hours’ wait to download one high-definition movie. Probably stick to standard def, if you ask me.
Manila, the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But slow internet speeds aren’t helping progress. In a May 2015 report Ookla found the country to have Asia’s second-slowest internet speeds, narrowly fending off Afghanistan. Its 3.64MBs compare pretty awfully to the 122.43 of Singapore or Hong Kong’s 102.96. But to fall behind Pakistan (4.0), Myanmar (6.54) and Laos (6.92) should be of considerable concern to citizens and entrepreneurs alike.
An ISP duopoly has been blamed for the poor performance, which the government seems to be catching on to: last summer it pegged minimum broadband speeds at 256kbps – a marginal reform, but one experts hope will pave the way to greater competition, and the speeds a potential regional powerhouse deserves.