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Nevada among leaders in Net speed

So you’re frustrated with the crawl along Interstate 15.

There has to be a better way, you think, as you creep from Russell Road to the Spaghetti Bowl at a pace a slug would mock.

But one local highway posts some of the nation’s fastest speeds.

If you’re like most Nevadans, you positively burn rubber on the information superhighway, according to a new study from Akamai Technologies of Massachusetts. Akamai, which owns a global server platform that handles billions of Internet interactions a day, has included Nevada among the top five U.S. states for speedy broadband connectivity to the World Wide Web.

Broadband connections use dedicated cables, fiber-optic lines and even satellites to offer faster online access than traditional dial-up modems, which link to the Internet via shared, multipurpose phone lines. Akamai developed its rankings by analyzing the share of its network connections coming from broadband services such as digital subscriber lines, ethernet access, satellite Internet, Wi-Fi and cellular broadband.

Old-fashioned dial-up modems typically transfer data at a rate of about 56 kilobits per second. A kilobit is 1,000 bits of information per second. Broadband connections can download data at a speed of more than 1 megabit, or 1 million bits of information, per second.

For its connectivity study, Akamai gauged the use of broadband that transfers two megabits per second, and high broadband connections that download five megabits per second. In the two-megabit category, Nevada placed third in the nation, with 84 percent of connections to the Akamai network coming through broadband. That’s compared with a countrywide rate of 62 percent.

The Silver State ranked No. 4 in the five-megabit realm, with 34 percent of Akamai connections happening across high broadband lines. Akamai didn’t offer a national percentage of high broadband connectivity.

Akamai’s findings make sense to Mike Ballard, chief executive officer of local ethernet provider 1Velocity.

Ballard pointed to a 2003 report that cited Clark County for posting the highest cell phone use rates per capita. And a study released in May anointed Las Vegas the nation’s second-most “digitally savvy” city, behind Austin, Texas, and ahead of high-tech hotbeds San Francisco and Seattle.

“This is just the next manifestation of Las Vegas’ on-the-go lifestyle,” said Ballard, whose company helps gaming companies, government agencies and other large enterprises acquire big bandwidth technologies.

Nor did the study’s results necessarily surprise the folks at Akamai.

David Belson, the company’s director of market intelligence, partly credited the Silver State’s solid connectivity to its recent growth trends: Newer housing developments and office parks have allowed telecommunications providers to install the latest technologies, such as the fiber-optic cables that carry broadband connections. Nevada’s young communities feature fiber infrastructure right up to their doorsteps, whereas more-established states and cities remain “saddled with aging copper infrastructure,” Belson said.

The older technological infrastructure that pervades mature cities and states could explain why high-tech stalwarts such as California and Washington failed to break into the top 10 states for broadband connections, Belson said.

Another edge for Nevada comes with its residents’ relatively high incomes.

Households statewide earn a median of $51,036 a year, compared with a national median of $48,200, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Household incomes trend even higher in Las Vegas, where the typical family brings in $53,000 a year. Larger salaries give consumers extra spending dollars for luxuries such as broadband Internet access, Belson said.

And don’t discount Nevadans’ penchant for embracing the new, Ballard noted. The constant stream of new residents and new companies flowing into the state means businesses and residents seeking fresh opportunities must “adapt to change and adopt new technologies,” he said.

Fast Internet connections boost businesses in nearly every sector, experts said.

For Zappos.com, an online retailer that moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas in 2004, access to broadband and bandwidth means the business can keep its servers in Southern Nevada, near its headquarters. The alternative, said systems administration manager Kristoffer Ongbongan, would be server setups in California or Virginia, with all the staffing needs and expenses that would accompany such far-flung network centers.

Plus, abundant broadband connections here let Zappos.com employees access e-mail and other company functions more quickly when they’re traveling on business, Ongbongan said.

Any business that uses the Internet at all, even as a simple research tool or marketing avenue, gains advantages through paring the minutes it takes to complete an online task, Ballard said.

“(Broadband connectivity) improves our quality of life,” he said. “It makes us more efficient.”

It also lends a competitive edge to Nevada in the scramble for relocating residents and businesses.

After Akamai released its report, Belson said, consumers and companies on the hunt for fast Net access half-joked about moving to Delaware or Rhode Island, the two best states for broadband connections. Broadband availability alone won’t drive companies to a new market, but it could combine with other factors to nudge businesses toward relocation, Belson said.

Ongbongan said he’s seen an influx of California companies moving servers to Clark County, partly because of the area’s bandwidth capacity and partly because the region is less likely than the Golden State’s big cities to suffer a massive earthquake.

Nevada’s showing in the Akamai study also leapfrogs the state over most of the country in its potential appeal to international companies. The United States, at 62 percent broadband penetration among Akamai users, ranks 24th in the world, behind countries including South Korea, Hong Kong, Tunisia, Slovakia and the Bahamas. Even if the country couldn’t crack the top 10, Nevada, at least, offers connectivity rates global companies are used to, Ballard said.

“(The ranking) says we have more infrastructure to help businesses flourish,” he said. “People need the right resources. Having a freeway close to your company is good for business. And having better access to the information superhighway is good for business, too.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

TOP STATES FOR NET CONNECTIONS

BROADBAND SERVICE

Nevada placed in the top three nationwide for states with the greatest number of connections to broadband Internet service:

State Percent*
Delaware 96%
Rhode Island 85%
Nevada 84%
Connecticut 80%
New York 78%
Oklahoma 78%
Michigan 75%
Tennessee 75%
New Hampshire 74%
South Carolina 73%

* connecting at two or more megabits per second

SOURCE: Akamai Technologies

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