No, just because Netflix is buffering doesn't make your internet connection "literally the worst ever." In fact, if you live in the Raleigh area, your connection is probably pretty good, in the grand scheme of things.
A report released June 6 lists Cary as the third most internet-connected municipality in the U.S. Raleigh follows closely, at No. 15.
The report, based on data collected as part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey, ranks all 186 municipalities in the U.S. with more than 50,000 residents. In Cary, only 11 percent of households lack a fixed high-speed internet connection, and in Raleigh, that figure is 18 percent. Across all surveyed households, 31 percent lack such a connection.
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The survey does not distinguish between households that do not have access to such a connection, and those who cannot afford or choose not to purchase such a connection. It includes all forms of cable, DSL and fiber-optic wired internet connections, as well as satellite and other fixed wireless connections, but not dial-up or cellular data connections.
So while everyone loves to complain about their internet connection, it turns out it could be worse. Much worse.
Greensboro is the 35th worst-connected municipality, with 39 percent of households lacking a fixed high-speed connection. The worst on the list (which admittedly doesn't include rural areas) is Brownsville, Texas. There, only one in three households have a qualifying connection.
The report comes from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, or NDIA, a nonprofit that works toward digital equity, which they consider to be when everyone has the internet access necessary to participate in our increasingly digital society.
Looking at the list, it's pretty easy to see why Cary and Raleigh rank so high: money and business. With large tech companies in the two cities and nearby Research Triangle Park drawing a large number of well-paid, tech savvy residents, it's no wonder major internet providers including Google Fiber, Spectrum and AT&T followed. The most connected major metropolis on the list is Seattle, home of tech giants Microsoft and Amazon. Not far behind are San Francisco and the rest of the area in California known as Silicon Valley.
On the other end of the spectrum, Detroit and Cleveland each lack internet connections in about half of their households. Both former manufacturing hubs were hit hard by the Great Recession, and still have yet to fully recover.
The report’s release came just in advance of the death of the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the regulations in December, and the decision took effect Monday, June 11.
"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. "Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them."
Pai’s reasoning shows why reliable access to high-speed internet and net neutrality are intimately related issues, said Angela Seifer, executive director of NDIA.
"Choosing the internet service plan that is best for one’s household assumes there is a choice of internet service providers with multiple speed and price offerings. This is not always the case, particularly in rural and inner city neighborhoods," Seifer said, referring to the lack of investment in internet infrastructure often faced by low-income communities, a problem frequently noted by NDIA.
So, the next time you get frustrated that the Wi-Fi isn't strong enough to load Instagram in your bedroom, remember: In many cities, you still can't use a landline and the computer at the same time.