Lithuana, you may be surprised to learn, is No. 1 on a ranking from the telecommunications company Ooma of the top 20 countries for fastest public Wi-Fi, measured by average download speeds in megabites per second (Mbps). While the U.S. is at No. 20, averaging 6.89 Mbps, the speed in Lithuania averages 15.4 Mbps.
The reason for Lithuana’s speediness is simple: heavy investment and prioritization of free public Wi-Fi. Since 2011, the country has been in the top ranks for speed and efficiency of public internet access, along with other Eastern European countries such as Croatia (No. 2), Estonia (No. 3), and Romania (No. 5).
While the biggest internet providers and telecommunications companies are located in the U.S., American broadband investment has decreased in recent years and, as nationwide debates over net neutrality have highlighted, the FCC is still unsure whether to treat free, fast Wi-Fi access as a luxury or as a utility. The physical infrastructure that Wi-Fi runs on in the U.S. is also horribly outdated; copper wires invented by Alexander Graham Bell weren’t designed to support streaming video and other heavy bandwith. On top of that, most Americans have very little choice when it comes to picking a broadband provider, as Comcast, Spectrum and Verizon together have near-total control of the market.
Meanwhile, smaller countries that have upped their Wi-Fi investment in the past decade—such as Lithuania—have had the opportunity to build from scratch and provide internet access with a more sustainable model, one where consumers aren’t forced to choose the least of three evils and public Wi-Fi is seen as beneficial for all. That’s why mobile internet access in particular is so fast in Lithuania. In terms of overall internet connection speeds, South Korea provides the fastest in the world—thanks to increased governmental support—followed by Norway,…