We decided to map out the whole country with each state's maximum advertised Internet speed compared to their actual average Internet speed.
All numbers are in MB/s. The darker a state appears, the faster its advertised Internet options are.
And before you jump in, please keep this in mind — this map compares advertised and average speeds. It's possible that some companies choose not to advertise their fastest speeds in some areas since it wouldn't be profitable without a large-volume customer base.
So if you pay for faster Internet speeds than we show here, that's not a conflict. It just means you have a higher speed than an ISP provides for your state on average.
With that in mind, take a look at our map! Find your state, click on it to bring up the information, and compare it to your own tested Internet speeds.
How do YOU compare?
Maximum Advertised vs. Actual Average Internet Speeds in the USA
The biggest takeaways
This map of Internet speeds reveals a few interesting takeaways. We'll take a look at all of them in-depth, according to our data.
1. Fastest advertised speeds vs. fastest actual average speeds
First, there's a slight difference between the state with the fastest advertised speeds and the state with the fastest average speeds.
California's service providers advertise speeds as high as 2000 MB/s, which is borderline incredible.
But California is #12 in terms of average speed at 18.9 MB/s.
Conversely, we have Delaware tied for second for the fastest advertised download speeds, but they're #1 in average download speeds at 27.9 MB/s.
So what gives? Why is Delaware actually faster than California?
The reason probably has less to do with Internet speeds and more to do with population. Interestingly, affordability probably isn't a factor since Delaware and California have roughly the same per capita personal income.
But they do differ in population. California has nearly 39 million residents and Delaware has fewer than 1 million. And remember, they have about the same income as one another (with Delawareans pulling slightly less).
So Delaware has fewer people, which makes it easier for them to get a higher average speed since their income is about equal to California's.
And since 2000 MB/s Internet is out of most people's price range, it's no wonder most Californians go with something more affordable.
Plus, Delaware is only 2500 square miles in size. So they have fewer people in a smaller area, and they all have high incomes. That makes it easy for an ISP like Comcast to connect the entire state in the blink of an eye.
Compare that to California, which has 164,000 square miles of land, and it's immediately more difficult for ISPs to lay the infrastructure that's needed for all of their customers to have blazing-fast Internet speeds.
The same reasoning could also apply to New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maryland as well.
2. Slowest advertised speeds vs. slowest actual average speeds
The slowest advertised Internet speeds in the country are focused around the Midwest and Southwest. There's a tie for states with the slowest advertised speeds between New Mexico and South Dakota, both at 6 MB/s.
Although to be fair, South Dakota has a worse deal since their max advertised upload speed is only a 1.5 MB/s trickle.
One possible reason is that New Mexico and South Dakota are two of the least-populous states in the country.
South Dakota is sparsely populated with fewer people than Delaware, and they're spread over a significantly larger area.
New Mexico has a lot more people — about 2 million — but a huge part of the state is uninhabited wilderness. That includes state parks and protected areas, which have phonebooks of litigation dictating how companies can use that land (if they can at all).
In other words, South Dakota and New Mexico have decent populations, but they're so spread out that connecting everyone in the state at high speeds probably isn't profitable.
As far as an ISP is concerned, if it's not profitable, it's not possible.
But neither state has the slowest average Internet speeds in the country. That distinction belongs to Montana, which has an actual average of 7.6 MB/s download and 3 MB/s upload.
Montana has a small population with slightly more than 1 million residents. That's more than Delaware, so why is Delaware so much faster?
Montana is similar to South Dakota and New Mexico in that it has lots of national parks and protected wilderness. Those guarded lands make it harder for ISPs to create the infrastructure needed to support high-speed Internet, like we mentioned with California.
In addition, Montana is significantly larger than statse with similar populations (like Delaware) in terms of square miles. Montana has about 147,000 square miles of land.
So if ISPs wanted to connect Montanans at the same speed they connect Delawareans, they would need to lay enough cable and create enough exchange points for a landmass about the size of California, but with 37 million fewer potential customers.
That's a ton of work, especially when you consider the fact that an ISP would have to go through the government to lay any cable in protected land.
In other words, it's a lot of pain for very little (if any) profit.
#3. ISPs of the fastest and slowest actual average states
One of the potential differences between the fastest and slowest states is their ISP.
Larger ISPs can generally reach more customers with service, while smaller ISPs could have their hands tied when it comes to laying new cable.
So let's take a look at Montana and Delaware.
Delaware's preferred ISP is Comcast, which makes sense since that company dominates most of the East Coast.
On the other hand, Montana's preferred ISP is...
This is probably one of the strangest takeaways from this map. But it boils down to a familiar reason.
It's just not profitable for Comcast to provide the infrastructure that supports lightning-speed Internet in an area as spread out and protected as Montana.
And can you blame them? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to equip a state with 2000 MB/s Internet when cattle outnumber humans 2.5 to 1.
Unless you tie Wi-Fi routers to the cattle's horns, anyway.
Data not on this map
As can happen sometimes, we over-prepared for this map in terms of data.
Originally, we didn't want to just show the Internet speeds of states — we also wanted to show the Internet speeds of ISPs.
But we really wanted the element to be interactive too, and we couldn't do both of those in the same map without causing a huge headache.
So here's the data we couldn't use in the interactive: Max Advertised Company Speeds vs. Actual Average Company Speeds.
We want to include this because we think it gives an extra dimension to the map. And who knows — maybe we'll make this into an interactive later, too!
But for now, just enjoy the data we mined.
Max advertised company speeds
|Time Warner Cable|
|Viasat / Exede|
Actual average company speeds
|Time Warner Cable|
|Viasat / Exede|
Check out our data
If you want to see our data for yourself, take a look at this Google Sheet. It's got all the numbers we used in this interactive's production.