Broadband speeds in the U.S. grew 6.4 percent in Q2 to an average of 4.2 Mbps, according to Akamai's Q1 "State of the Internet" report (PDF). Year-over-year speed growth was 15 percent. Yes, we're still far behind. Globally, 20 percent of internet connections were faster than 5 Mbps in Q1, an increase of 30 percent year-over-year. In Japan, which replaced South Korea as world speed leader, 57 percent of connections were over 5Mbps. South Korea does retain the highest percentage of the fastest connections. Twelve percent of connections in South Korea were over 25 Mbps in Q1.  Only one percent of U.S. connections were this fast.

While broadband speeds are picking up, subscriptions are slowing down. Overall, the number of new broadband subscribers in the U.S. was the lowest in eight years in Q2 2009, according to Leichtman Research Group. Fewer than 650,000 new broadband subscriptions were added in Q2, compared to 1.6 million in Q1 (PDF).

The research group attributes the slowing growth to two things: a historically slow period and market maturation.

While the market as it stands might be mature, the broadband divide is still pretty wide. Only half of individuals making less than $30,000 a year have the internet at home, let alone broadband (37 percent).

Up the earnings ladder, these figures jump: 81 percent of those in the $30,000 to $70,000 range have internet access at home, and 70 percent have broadband.

While better broadband speed is sexy, ultimately the most important thing is dropping the price of internet connectivity so that everyone can have access.

By Mark Alvarez