As the number of people telecommuting or otherwise making a living remotely has grown, many are looking at where to live based on factors like affordability as opposed to distance from a central office. We’ve even seen states offering incentives to people to move based on their ability to work remotely. (Anybody feel like making $10,000 in exchange for moving to Tulsa, OK for a year?) Ookla and Zillow teamed up to build a database of home affordability and fixed, wireline internet speeds. Here are the top results.
Chattanooga’s top ranking isn’t surprising. Chattanooga’s municipal broadband has been recognized as the fastest in the country, with the highest customer service ranking. Its success is why conservative organizations like Comcast, Verizon, and Spectrum ALEC has sponsored legislation in statehouses across the entire country to crack down on municipal broadband and prevent states from building it. Shreveport, Kansas City, El Paso, and Pittsburgh round out the top five. There’s also an expanded list of 25 cities on Speedtest.net, showing 21 of the 25 as offering gigabit service if you want it (obviously your ability to actually buy gigabit will depend on how much of the city in question is covered by the ISP). According to Ookla, the speed scores you see listed are a “weighted measure of mean download and upload speeds that also considers performance at the lowest and highest tiers.”
One particularly noteworthy thing about this list is the complete absence of any West Coast cities or even any cities typically considered to be part of the West (Texas and Oklahoma are typically considered part of the Southwest). In the case of the West Coast, the problem is home prices. While internet speeds in these areas are quite high, home prices are simply stratospheric.
The fact that many of the most affordable cities with good broadband speeds are in the Midwest, South, and Southeast jives with persistent reporting on this topic: Large cities like San Francisco offer tremendous economic opportunity, but rapidly rising rents and home costs have made living in them unaffordable to an increasingly large percentage of the US population. The reasons for this are complex, as The Atlantic discussed in this 2014 article. Cities like San Francisco are hemmed in by geography and give local homeowner organizations tremendous power to stymie development. But the combination of trends like these — affordable housing and high-speed internet — could, in the long term, help improve outcomes these more affordable cities and the workers they’d like to serve.
(Full disclosure: Both Ookla and ExtremeTech are owned by Ziff Davis. This write-up, however, was written entirely by my curmudgeonly self, with no input from Ookla, Zillow, or The Powers That Be.)