Is your internet really as slow as you think it is?
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McCabe claims Wisconsin ranks 49th in the country for internet speed.
"How are we going to compete in a 21st century economy, and how are people gonna fully participate in modern American life if we’re 49th in the country for internet speed?" McCabe said in an April 18, 2018, edition of the NewsTalk podcast.
McCabe is one 10 Democrats seeking to take on Gov. Scott Walker in the 2018 election. McCabe, a political activist, is running on a platform of "principle over party."
While we were waiting for the latest cat video to buffer, we decided to check out his claim.
A look at the numbers
When asked for backup, McCabe pointed to a 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article which cited a study that ranked Wisconsin as 49th for fixed broadband internet speed. Fixed broadband encompasses landlines, desktops and laptops -- basically everything except mobile connections.
So, McCabe made a broad statement about internet speed, but cited data that looks at only part of the picture -- and ignores a major chunk of internet use.
To be sure, the 2016 Speedtest ranking McCabe cited did rank Wisconsin 49th, with a speed of 28.59 megabits per second, when it comes to just broadband speed. But if you look just at mobile, Wisconsin ranked much higher, at 15th place.
The study did not include an average of broadband and mobile, but more recent data from Akamai’s 2017 State of the Internet Report, issued in the first quarter of 2017, did combine data from both. That ranking placed Wisconsin 30th for average overall internet speed.
We asked University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications professor emeritus Barry Orton about McCabe’s claim. He said all data on the subject is a bit fuzzy, but said Wisconsin traditionally does not do as well as other states in terms of average speed.
"Traditionally, WI has been ranked very low compared to other states, primarily because there are so many rural areas in Wisconsin with almost no internet service," Orton said.
Walker campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg said Walker has done extensive work to boost and strengthen Wisconsin’s broadband system, including creating a $7.68 million dollar grant, the largest in state history, to support broadband expansion.
According to Altenburg this grant will provide 1,600 business locations and 18,000 residential locations with high-speed internet.
When we told McCabe what we found, he promised to adjust his claim in the future. He said his main point was that Wisconsin’s goal should be to have high-speed internet access everywhere.
McCabe claimed that Wisconsin ranks 49th in internet speed.
A 2016 ranking put Wisconsin at 49th-slowest for broadband internet speed -- that is, for land-based internet, but that only provides a partial picture.
When mobile is factored in, the state ranks much higher, in the neighborhood of 30th place.
We rate McCabe’s claim Half True.