Testing your library’s Internet connection speed

dis-mapEarlier this year the Digital Inclusion Survey invited U.S. public libraries to test their Internet connection speeds as part of a project to measure the quality of public Internet access at public libraries. The results of the survey are now available at the project’s website. About half of the responding libraries reported download speeds greater than 10 Mbps. See the Issue Brief on Public Libraries & Broadband for a summary.

The project’s website includes a very nifty interactive map which gives demographic details and survey responses for specific cities, regions, or public libraries.


Internet Connection Speed Test

You can test your own Internet connection speed at a number of sites – one good choice is Ookla’s http://www.speedtest.net/ .

Your speed will probably be reported in megabits per seconds, abbreviated Mbps. It will give you separate results for download and upload speeds; it is common (and usually appropriate) for downloading to be much faster than uploading. Run the test several times, at different times of day and at times when computer / mobile device usage in the library is both heavy and light, to get a good idea of your average speed.



Here are some comparison points to put your speed test results in perspective:

–       0.256 Mbps is the lowest speed called “broadband,” under the definition that broadband is “anything faster than dial-up.”

–       4 Mbps is “basic broadband” according to the FCC, the minimum speed adequate for services like streaming video, VoIP (Internet telephone), and interactive online games.

–       10 Mbps or higher was reported by about half of the U.S. public libraries that responded to the Digital Inclusion Survey.

–       10.5 Mbps to 18.2 Mbps is the average speed for all Internet connections in the U.S. (10.5 Mbps is the figure from Akamai’s State of the Internet report, summarized in this Mashable.com article. 18.2 Mbps is the average according to Ookla’s NetIndex, summarized in this Gizmodo.com article.)

–       23.6 Mbps to 53.8 Mbps is the average speed for Internet connections in South Korea, which has the highest average of any nation in the world. (23.6 according to the Akamai report, 53.8 according to the Ookla report.)

–       43 Mbps to 622 Mbps is not unusual for small and medum sized businesses that require high-speed Internet connectivity.

–       2,388 Mbps and higher speeds are used for the Internet backbone.

Compare your results to others in your area or elsewhere by visiting Ookla’s Net Index Explorer, or see this national map (posted at Gizmodo.com) of speed test results from January through July 2013.

You might also want to refer to the National Broadband Map, which shows advertised broadband speeds offered by Internet service providers in the U.S. On this map, enter an address (or a city and state) to see a list of the broadband providers serving that area and the advertised speeds that they offer. Another map at this site shows a national overview of the typical actual speeds and other statistics. (Click ‘show gallery’ at the bottom in order to see the different maps available.)



Digital Inclusion Survey, a project funded by IMLS and conducted by the ALA Office for Research & Statistics and the University of Maryland Information Policy & Access Center. Resources include infographics, issue briefs, and an interactive map.

Speedtest by Ookla, a popular tool for testing Internet connection speeds. Ookla is a provider of tools for Internet performance measurement and analysis.

NetIndex by Ookla, a database of broadband and mobile data from 2008 to the present, built by collecting the results from Ookla’s Speedtest.

Akamai State of the Internet Report, a quarterly summary of worldwide online trends. Akamai is a provider of infrastructure for worldwide cloud services, and the report is based on measurement of actual Internet traffic that passes through their services.

National Broadband Map, a tool to help analyze broadband availability across the U.S., created by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) in collaboration with the FCC.

Frequently Asked Questions at WhatIsMyIPAddress.com provides helpful definitions and explanations about various types of Internet technology.


Judy is a technology consultant for public libraries. She blogs at ElephantInTheLibrary.com.

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