Alas, Alaska. Also Arkansas. It's a terrible time to be living in the Deep South or outside the Lower 48 if you're a Web developer. At least that's what Tom Heppard at BroadView Networks is demonstrating with this handy map. With this picture (click to see a bigger version), you can see exactly what's going on in your state. You can also take a look at a text ranking, best to worst, here.
It's tempting to blame cable providers for the dearth of access in some of these places. Super tempting, in fact. Actually, it's so tempting that you should feel free to look at the FCC's cable coverage map by provider here, and you'll see that the cable providers in the low-speed areas are GCI in Alaska, Comcast and Time Warner in Arkansas, a soup of local cable providers and big-league players in Kentucky, Cablevision in Montana, and near-total dominance by Suddenlink in West Virginia.
So what's going on? Why is Virginia so fast, particularly D.C.? And Massachusetts, and Delaware? Two reasons, both having to do with the quality of the actual information pipelines themselves—the wires that take the data from house to house.
1) Massachusetts is an easy one, and it helps explain some of the others, too. It's the home not only to centers of technical thought at Harvard and MIT and a dozen other colleges, but also to defense contractor Raytheon, owner of BBN Technologies, which was instrumental in creating the Internet during the Arpanet projects (later part of Darpa). That explains the high-quality pipe in Northern Virginia and D.C., too—it's home to many technically advanced government contractors and agencies. Also, it can't hurt for the cable providers to offer the highest-quality and fastest service to the very legislators who hold cable's regulatory fate in their hands.
2) Delaware, the second-fastest state in the nation, has a similar wrinkle, but it's not technical—it's legal. The Delaware Corporation Law makes groundbreaking allowances for any business incorporated within its borders, including a provision that excuses shareholders from the financial obligations of a company (meaning you can't go into the firm's debt if your share of its stock goes bust), laid-back interest laws and an allowance for multiple offices of a corporation to be held by a single person. In other words, Delaware might require one director and two officers to be residents of the state for the company to be incorporated, but the CEO, the chairman of the board and the head of marketing can all be the same guy. Thus, more than half of all publicly traded corporations in the U.S. (and more than 60 percent of the Fortune 500) are incorporated in Delaware.
So that's the top five for you—the bottom five … well, they're not really centers of industry or education or technology, and that's probably at least part of the reason your Netflix marathon of 30 Rock isn't going as planned.