The news: Have constant buffering problems been ruining your dates with Netflix recently? You're not the only one: Americans are increasingly paying more money for slower Internet access than the rest of the world.
The Open Technology Institute's recent "The Cost of Connectivity" report compared the cost and speed of broadband Internet in 24 U.S. cities with various locations abroad. The report found that the majority of U.S. cities surveyed "lag behind their international peers, paying more money for slower Internet access."
The details: The denizens of South Korea, France, Japan and various other countries can obtain high-speed Internet for much less money than their American counterparts.
In Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris, $50 buys significantly higher-quality Internet access than it does in New York and Los Angeles. Hong Kong boasts downloads speeds up to 300 megabits per second for $50 while New York's speeds are just shy of 50 mbps for the same price.
So for $50 and at maximum speeds, it'll take under a minute to download a couple Game of Thrones episodes in Hong Kong while it'll take at least four minutes in New York. That's not just a huge bummer for GoT fans: It puts the U.S. at a competitive advantage with the rest of the world.
You might be thinking, "This is America, so if you've got the money, you can have faster Internet than all those other countries." This isn't true. The Open Technology Institute found the fastest Internet speeds period in the following cities: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; Lafayette, Louisiana; Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bristol, Bucharest and Paris.
While it may be encouraging to see some American cities with high-speed Internet, wait until you see the group of cities organized by price rather than speed:
People in major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York and Washington are paying more than six times as much as the people in Seoul yet have speeds that are half as fast.
The takeaway: Internet speeds have been a hot topic over the past few months. Telecommunications companies are seeking to "control" the Internet and will presumably split it into "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" if they convince the FCC to abandon "net neutrality," the idea that providers shouldn't be able to charge more for some kinds of Web traffic than other kinds.
However, if Internet behemoth Netflix has to bend over to get faster speeds from Comcast, it doesn't look like plebeians like us will see the end of Big Telecom's "more money for less product" scheme any time soon.