broadband_smallA guy took a fishing trip to Maine and then compares us to a developing nation because of our Internet speeds. Tourism as a double-edged sword?

It’s funny to joke, but the issue of Internet speed isn’t a laughing matter.

Michael McKee, Bloomberg’s economics editor, recently took a fishing trip to Maine and returned with the dire conclusion that residents and businesses in some developing nations have better Internet service than we do. (Update: Michael told me via Twitter that while he did take a fishing trip to Maine this summer, his story on Maine’s Internet speeds was completed on a legitimate reporting trip.)

He shared his thoughts Wednesday morning on Bloomberg Surveillance, a Bloomberg TV show (the clip is embedded below).

“It’s pretty bad,” McKee says when asked about Maine’s Internet speeds. “Where we were of course you couldn’t get any Internet, but that’s a problem throughout the state and it has people really worried there because Maine, depending on which service you use, ranks 49th or 50th in the United States in terms of Internet download speeds available.”

He doesn’t cite his sources, but I assume he’s referring to recent data from Ookla NetMetrics, a Montana-based firm that tests the performance of Internet networks, that ranked Maine 49th out of the 50 states for quality and availability of broadband access.

Sadly, he’s not wrong, which is why Fletcher Kittredge, founder and CEO of GWI in Biddeford, recently released a 10-point plan to address Maine’s Internet problem.

However, I think McKee is too focused on sensationalizing the matter, as he goes on to make an improper comparison between Maine and New York. He claims in New York you can download something at a speed of 150 megabits per second while in Maine you’ll have to settle for 9 megabits per second. It’s a shocking juxtaposition and gets the wow-factor he’s looking for — but it’s also false and inaccurate. He’s not comparing apples to apples. He’s comparing a peak speed available in what I can only assume is New York City, where Bloomberg is based, with Maine’s statewide average speed.

He wasn’t wrong about Maine’s average broadband Internet speed, which was 8.7 megabits per second in the first quarter of 2014, according to data from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based cloud services provider Akamai Technologies. That was enough to tie Arizona for 37th place. However, New York’s average broadband Internet speed was 11.5 megabits per second in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Akamai data. Yes, New York has faster average Internet speeds than Maine, but the gulf between the two is not as wide as McKee suggests. You can access Internet speeds of more than 100 megabits per second in Portland.

The Akamai study found that the U.S. average was 10.5 megabits per second.

McKee backs up his story of how bad it is in Maine with a story of a business owner he apparently spoke with on his fishing trip who requires days to download the necessary updates for the Adobe software he uses for his business.

Tom Keene, Bloomberg Surveillance’s host, asks McKee why Maine has such horrible Internet speeds.

“Because there aren’t enough people who live there,” McKee said. “Basically there is a broadband corridor that runs up the middle of the state. They do have the capability of connecting. The problem is the Internet service providers don’t make any money if they connect because the population density isn’t great enough. So for them to string that last mile of cable to their home or business it costs too much money.”

At this point, the other people on the show begin talking about how some developing countries have faster Internet than Maine does, and McKee says that’s true.

Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Moldova all rank higher than the United States for the average speed of their Internet connection, according to Ookla data.

“The problem of course for Maine is that it retards business development and growth because companies don’t want to locate there, and you get business spin-offs out of the University of Maine and things like that — they don’t want to necessarily stay if they can’t get that kind of high-speed Internet,” McKee said.