Internet Speeds Shot Up 40% During COVID-19

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Here’s How (and Why) Internet Speeds Have Changed During COVID-19

We decided to take another look at how internet speeds across the United States changed from before the pandemic to now. While working from home wasn’t new going into 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a drastic uptick in remote work and studying for Americans due to workplaces and schools shutting down. Check out our findings.

States with Biggest Increases in Internet Speeds 2021

  1. Alaska (170.2% increase in download speeds)
  2. Idaho (77.7%)
  3. Kentucky (70.6%)
  4. Iowa (64%)
  5. Wyoming (62.6%)
  6. Kansas (60.3%)
  7. Maine (59.7%)
  8. Montana (57.7%)
  9. Oklahoma (57.4%)
  10. South Carolina (56.1%)

There’s good news for internet speed demons: 2021 saw an average internet speed increase across the board in the U.S. However, some states experienced greater gains than others. Alaska leads the pack with an impressive 170% increase in average download speeds thanks to a state-sponsored push to bolster its internet infrastructure. Additionally, Oklahoma and South Carolina stretched above 100Mbps, with Oklahoma’s 104.6Mbps average download speed and South Carolina reaching 111.7Mbps.

States with Biggest Decreases in Internet Speeds 2021

Only West Virginia saw a decrease in download speed in 2021. This is an improvement over 2020, where at least five states fell. West Virginia’s average download speed dipped a total of 17.6%—from 59.2Mbps pre-pandemic to 48.7Mbps now. While that’s a modest decrease, 48.7Mbps is still enough bandwidth for about two 4K Netflix streams.

Internet Speeds Rise Across the Country

The national average internet speed shot up 40.1% from pre-pandemic to 2021. Before COVID-19, the United States averaged 84.5Mbps. Since then, speeds further rose to a respectable 118.4Mbps average.

Our research suggests that once working, studying, and gaming from home became the norm, a reliable home network became a top priority. Plus, today’s homes include more than just computers or phones connecting to the internet, but also gaming consoles, smart fridges, and other devices vying for a portion of the bandwidth. While trying to support these home connectivity needs, middling download speeds started to become a nuisance. Ultimately, internet providers saw the demand for faster, more reliable home internet and are making that happen across the United States.

2021 Methodology & Sources

Our data analysts reviewed over 907,233 speed test results. We compared the average download speed in each U.S. state before the COVID-19 pandemic (12/1/19 – 3/15/20) against more recent data (5/1/21 – 8/17/21) to calculate the differences. To ensure accuracy, we made sure each IP address only appeared once and removed cellular speed tests.

Previous Data 2020

Below, you’ll find data we collected in 2020 analyzing how internet speeds shifted from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic until mid-2020.

States with biggest increases in internet speeds 2020

  1. Wyoming (52% increase)
  2. Alaska (40% increase)
  3. Kentucky (37% increase)
  4. Kansas (36% increase)
  5. Missouri (31% increase)

Wyoming internet users benefited the most from higher broadband speeds in 2020 during the pandemic, with average download speeds increasing by a whopping 52%. This is likely a result of a statewide push by the Wyoming Broadband Council to improve internet connectivity and speeds to underserved rural populations.

Similar state-sponsored initiatives seem to have contributed to speed improvements elsewhere. Alaska internet providers helped boost average speeds in that state by 40%, having completed the only all-on-land fiber internet network in June 2020.

Kentucky’s “KentuckyWired” project also continued to build out over 3,000 miles of fiber internet cables to speed up rural areas, and over $50 million was been earmarked in Missouri for increased broadband access.

States with biggest decreases in internet speeds 2020

  1. West Virginia (13% decrease)
  2. Hawaii (8% decrease)
  3. Delaware (8% decrease)
  4. Connecticut (6% decrease)
  5. Washington, D.C. (2% decrease)

West Virginia took the largest hit in internet speeds since the pandemic started, dropping 13% in average download speeds throughout 2020 compared to the pre-pandemic period. This may be tied to pre-existing connection issues that have been prevalent throughout the state, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the strain on limited resources in largely rural areas. Similar issues were reported in Connecticut and Delaware.

Average U.S. internet speeds rose in 2020

Surprisingly, overall average internet speeds across the United States increased throughout the 2020 year of the pandemic, from 84.9Mbps to 94.6Mbps—despite the surge in bandwidth demand from more Zoom-ing, streaming, gaming, and more.

One potential reason for the upward shift could lie in the fact that consumers upgraded their internet plans to faster ones, thereby raising the overall average for home internet speeds. Some internet service providers, like Cox, also increased overall internet speeds for some plans in response to the pandemic.

2020 methodology & sources

We looked at over 717,000 internet speed tests, comparing the average results per state from the period prior to the COVID-19 U.S. outbreak (mid-January to mid-March 2020) to the period after the pandemic started (mid-March to early July 2020). We excluded cellular data speed tests, focusing only on home broadband internet connections.

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