The Internet is an inalienable attribute of modern life and a real driving force of economy, so it’s in every country’s best interest to provide its citizens a decent level of the Internet access. The global online ecosystem, though, isn’t homogeneous because different countries have different characteristics of the online infrastructure and technological progress. The Internet connection speed is a matter of where you are, where the destination web resource is hosted, as well as the quantity and properties of the networks that your connection needs to go through along the way.
It’s noteworthy that Internet speed tends to be a reflection of a country’s political system and the state of its technology. Countries that boast the highest speeds are among the world’s leaders in terms of personal liberties and innovation. In the meantime, the ones with the lowest Internet speeds have poor infrastructure overall and go the route of violating human rights. In fact, things like censorship and government surveillance can impact the Internet speed no matter how top-notch your personal equipment is.
1. South Korea
South Korea is the world’s indisputable leader as far as the average Internet connection speed is concerned. It is also ranked number three by average peak connection speed. The average speed across the country is 26.7 Mbps, while the average peak is 95.3 Mbps. About 95% of South Korea’s population are Internet users. It is due to strong and overwhelming governmental support of the broadband technology. Another contributing factor is the high population density that makes it easier to provide citizens with connectivity. Close to 95% of the country’s territory has 3G coverage, which is also available in subways, tunnels, and buildings. You can find free Wi-Fi almost everywhere.
The average connection speed in Sweden is 19.5 Mbps. That’s much slower than in South Korea, yet it allows the country to be ranked the honorable second position. As per reports on Internet filtering and surveillance, there is a negligible scope of governmental influence upon the online environment in Sweden. With that said, they do have slight control of cross-border web traffic and online activity related to child pornography.
Norway comes third, with the average connection speed being 18.8 Mbps. It has some enviable Internet background, having become the first non-English speaking nation to be connected to the legendary ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) back in 1971. Norwegians have been at the forefront of digital innovation ever since in terms of deploying fiber optic and 4G infrastructure. As a result, connection speeds even on remote islands are higher than most other countries can boast. Norway’s political system focuses on protecting users’ privacy and freedoms on the Internet, with little to no governmental interference in place.
With average Internet speed at 17.5 Mbps, Japan is number four in our chart. It also has the world’s fifth highest peak average speed, which is 82.5 Mbps. Retrospectively, the country was one of the pioneers in acknowledging the potential of the Internet and investing in its infrastructure. Japan has reached commendable heights in implementing the FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) network architecture. Regulation of the Internet is reduced to a minimum, owing to self-regulation mechanisms used by enterprises that operate online. The freedom of press and speech is hardly infringed by Japan’s government.
5. The Netherlands
The average connection speed in the Netherlands is 17 Mbps. According to statistics by the OECD, the country goes hand in hand with Switzerland in terms of broadband subscriptions, both having the highest number thereof per 100 citizens. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on the amount of data that can be transferred (so-called broadband caps). The Netherlands also boasts the greatest number of homes in Europe with connection speeds exceeding 50 Mbps. The “local loop” principle enables redundancy in case of a cyber-attack or network damage scenario so that users stay connected regardless. While endorsing personal liberties and uncensored Internet, the Dutch government does monitor things like child pornography and copyright violations.
6. Hong Kong
Ranking the sixth by average Internet speed 16.8 Mbps, Hong Kong is the world’s number two by average peak speed that reaches 105 Mbps. This autonomous territory bears a resemblance to South Korea in terms of population density (it’s the fourth most densely populated region in the world), which facilitates the process of connecting all inhabitants and businesses there.
Latvia boasts an average connection speed at 16.7 Mbps, which is the seventh highest parameter globally. There is hardly any online content filtering in the country. The fiber optics technology is widespread and continues to be actively implemented. Those visiting Latvia can enjoy 3G connectivity pretty much everywhere they go, whereas much of the territory has free Wi-Fi coverage.
The average Internet speed in Switzerland equals Latvia’s 16.7 Mbps. The nation has one of the highest Internet penetration rates in Europe, with DSL and broadband over the phone being the primary ways of providing connectivity, given the high cost of deploying fiber optics all over the country. Whereas there is little to no filtering or other restrictions on the web, some scattershot cases of censorship have occurred in the past. The law enforcement agencies may penalize individuals who engage in provoking racial hatred or other prohibited activities online.
Finland is number nine with average speed at 16.6 Mbps. This isn’t close to the highest benchmarks across the board, and yet the country boasts leadership in a few related domains. It was one of the first to break new ground in adopting mainstream use of the Internet back in the early 1980s. It was also the first to officially make broadband connection a human right. Nowadays, fiber optic networking is a common thing in Finland, making the benefits of the above-mentioned FTTH tech available to the masses. There are no governmental encroachments on Internet access or any other form of censorship.
Denmark’s average Internet speed at 16.1 Mbps isn’t anywhere near the speed in South Korea, but it’s still high and about three times the global average. This Scandinavian country stands out from the crowd due to the monopoly on the Internet infrastructure. TDC, a Danish telecommunications giant that used to be a state-owned company, is the proprietor of all copper connections bringing the Internet to the homes and organizations in Denmark.
How to make your connection faster
If you have already subscribed to the fastest Internet connection available, bought equipment of the highest quality you can afford, and are surfing the web in the optimal way, there’s still a good chance one more thing can help increase your speeds – it is called VPN.
Filtering and bandwidth throttling can make your speed plummet
It’s within the realms of possibility that you have low connection speed because you are being surveilled. You may be dealing with online censorship, or your Internet service provider might be throttling your bandwidth or traffic-shaping you behind your back. In fact, there can be plenty of external factors that will cause your speed to take a nosedive. A VPN will allow you to get around all of these pitfalls with the help of a network of servers located all around the globe. The most effective VPN solutions ensure completely unrestricted Internet access and bandwidth.
The local network isn’t the best you can get
The truth is, not all connections are based on fiber optics. Even if they are, the last mile isn’t necessarily fiber. To top it all off, you can’t be certain about the quality of the last mile implementation for the service you are attempting to access or any intermediary services. In case you are experiencing connection issues when trying to reach a specific site or country, consider using a VPN service and choose a dedicated server in your country or in the destination state. This way, your traffic will follow a different network route than in a commonplace scenario, which may improve your overall connection quality.
David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 15 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the Privacy-PC.com project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking.