The tiny town of Ephrata, Wash., is home to just 7,664 residents. It has six public schools, an Amtrak station and one tiny newspaper, the Grant County Journal. It also has the fastest broadband Internet in America.
That’s according to Net Index, a measure of Internet speed maintained by Ookla, a software and broadband testing company based in Seattle and Kalispell, Mont. The company’s software tests Internet download speeds across the country, and for the first half of last year, it found Ephrata’s average download speed of 85.5 megabits per second was far faster than anywhere else in the country.
Kansas City came in second, the study found, at an average speed of 49.9 Mbps. Both cities have help: Ephrata is home to iFiber Communications, a broadband company that covers four sparsely populated rural Washington counties. And in 2011, Google chose Kansas City to be the guinea pig in an experiment to bring ultra high-speed Internet access to metro areas.
Gizmodo crunched Ookla’s numbers in a study last fall, which found the slowest speeds in the northern Arizona communities of Chinle and Fort Defiance, both small towns in Apache County with heavily Native American populations. In both cities, download speeds were about 1.5 Mbps, less than one-tenth the national average of 18.2 Mbps.
Perhaps not surprisingly, big cities and more urban areas are more likely to benefit from faster download speeds, while rural communities are more likely to see that little buffering icon spin around constantly. Appalachia suffers from some of the slowest download speeds in the country, while the I-95 corridor in the Northeast is most likely to zip right along the information superhighway.