Fastly Observes Digital Divide in Internet Speed Amid COVID-19

Fastly, Inc. (NYSE: FSLY), a global edge cloud platform, has announced a February to April 2020 analysis of Internet performance within median income brackets in the US, the company said.

The first in a series of data analyses on the digital divide — the unequal distribution of Internet access across socioeconomic and geographic lines — these findings uncover a clear stratification of download speeds, indicating households with lower incomes experienced lower download speeds compared to households with higher incomes.

In the weeks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people around the world are relying on the web for work and education from home, bringing the Internet´s inequities into sharper focus. A beacon of hope lies in recent Internet service provider (ISP) decisions to upgrade Internet speeds for lower income communities, which analysis shows has led to noticeable improvements in Internet performance. Notably, Fastly´s data only represents those who have some sort of residential Internet connection, and does not include a group at the very heart of the digital divide issue — those without Internet at all.

To understand the impact of the digital divide on low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fastly compared the median download speed between February 26 and April 21 for five brackets of annual average income. Download speed is a measure of the bandwidth that a user´s connection to our server achieves, which is typically lower than the connection speed users signed up for with their Internet providers.

The analysis shows ZIP Codes with median incomes in the highest brackets are seeing the highest download speeds, compared to ZIP Codes with the lowest median incomes, which are seeing the lowest download speeds. This reflects that, among other inequities, people in higher income neighborhoods have both access to higher bandwidth connectivity and the means to use it.

While an increase in download speed is seen within this date range in users of all income groups, users in the lowest income group saw the largest increase. This bracket had its median download speed increase from 13.7 Mbps to 17 Mbps, a 25 percent increase in download speed over a period of two months.

Fastly analysis also shows that on February 26, 26.3 percent of the connections in the lower income bracket did not meet the minimum download speed recommended by the FCC for both telecommuting and online learning (five Megabits per second). However, from mid-March to mid-April, Fastly observed the biggest improvement in number of users without the minimum required download speeds in that same bracket, dropping from 26.3 percent to 22.3 percent.

Fastly helps people stay better connected with the things they love. The platform is designed to take advantage of the modern Internet, to be programmable, and to support agile software development.