Characterizing Performance Inequity Across U.S. Ookla Speedtest Users


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The Internet has become indispensable to daily activities, such as work, education and health care. Many of these activities require Internet access data rates that support real-time video conferencing. However, digital inequality persists across the United States, not only in who has access but in the quality of that access. Speedtest by Ookla allows users to run network diagnostic tests to better understand the current performance of their network. In this work, we leverage an Internet performance dataset from Ookla, together with an ESRI demographic dataset, to conduct a comprehensive analysis that characterizes performance differences between Speedtest users across the U.S. Our analysis shows that median download speeds for Speedtest users can differ by over 150Mbps between states. Further, there are important distinctions between user categories. For instance, all but one state showed statistically significant differences in performance between Speedtest users in urban and rural areas. The difference also exists in urban areas between high and low income users in 27 states. Our analysis reveals that states that demonstrate this disparity in Speedtest results are geographically bigger, more populous and have a wider dispersion of median household income. We conclude by highlighting several challenges to the complex problem space of digital inequality characterization and provide recommendations for furthering research on this topic.
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