Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

High Speed Users Skew Vermont's Average Internet Speeds

Vermont Center For Geographic Information - VCGI

Vermont is again ranked as the state with the highest average internet speed according to the latest Akamai Quarterly State Of The Internet Report

In the past officials have cited the report as proof that Vermont is doing well in its broadband efforts, but there’s no shortage of people who are skeptical of the report’s findings based on their own broadband speeds.

Their comments are familiar to the report’s author, David Belson, who takes pains to explain his methodology and the meaning of the results.

Belson says the averages listed in the report are not based on theoretical figures or the speeds that the providers advertise.

The speed – 12.7 megabits per second – is the actual average of speeds businesses and individuals in Vermont are experiencing. 

But Belson says it’s important to understand what the average means.  Akamai, which is an internet content provider, is not counting internet users, it’s counting hits. 

In other words the people who use the Web the most are generating more of the data that goes into the report. If those people have very fast internet speeds, that’s going help to raise the average. 

To illustrate this point, consider this analogy:   

When Bill Gates walks into a bar, the average income of the patrons in that bar skyrockets. 

That same principle accounts for Vermont’s first in the nation standing for average broadband speeds.

“That’s the risk of using an average, unfortunately,” says Belson.

In the case of Vermont there are three Bill Gates-types.

Two are colleges.  The University of Vermont and Middlebury College together account for 15% of the Vermont internet traffic measured by Akamai and they have internet speeds well above the average.

The third “Bill Gates” is a Vermont internet service provider, which Belson isn’t permitted to name.  It has higher than average speeds and its customers account for 50% of the state’s online traffic monitored by Akamai. 

“The Bill Gates effect is, in essence partially at play here where the two colleges and the provider are dragging the average speed up,” says Belson.

He says the number of IP addresses, or internet connections, in Vermont is small – only North Dakota has fewer – which means it’s easier for a user like the University of Vermont with high speed service and thousands of students, faculty and staff using it, to influence the average.

“If you’re talking about a state like California or Texas or New York, it is much harder for a given institution or network provider to overwhelmingly influence the calculations,” he explains.

Belson says other states are close to Vermont in average broadband speeds, but he points to the continued growth of high speed internet access in the state over time which may allow it to maintain its standing. 

That a good number of people in Vermont are enjoying very high speed broadband is good news for the state, but there’s good news for those with slower speeds, too:  Gradually higher speed service may be coming their way. 

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
Latest Stories