In a new international report, Alaska ranks last in access to broadband connectivity to the Internet. We also boast the highest percentage of residents whose access comes through ultra-slow connections.

This morning we retweeted an item from Alaska Dispatch about some sobering statistics regarding broadband connectivity in the Last Frontier. Akamai Technologies, creator of digital operating environments for the Web, has released its global “State of the Internet” report for the first quarter of 2010. In the post “’State of the Internet,’ bad news for AK,” the Dispatch writes:

“The United States slipped a little in terms of average connection speed, coming in 16th and averaging overall 4.7 Mbps (megabits per second). The country with the fastest average connection speed in the survey was South Korea, which registered an astonishing 33 Mbps average.

“Alaska, sadly, was worst among U.S. states, with 2.7 Mbps average speeds, along with the highest percentage of residents whose access comes through ultra-slow connections, defined as less than 256 Kbps (kilobits per second).”

Although these particular statistics are hot off the press, the conditions that lead to Alaska’s low global ranking were the motivator for Rasmuson Foundation’s March 2010 award of up to $250,000 for the Alaska State Library Broadband Initiative, which began as a partnership between the State of Alaska and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The intent is to increase broadband Internet access to public libraries in Alaska.

Together, Alaska’s public (community and Tribal) libraries reach 536,000 Alaskans. In many communities, the library is the only place where the Internet is accessible free of charge, particularly after-hours or outside of the workplace. However, 82 percent of the state’s libraries do not provide adequate Internet speeds for patrons to be able to optimize that experience making it difficult to do tasks such as file a PFD online, access tax returns or simply communicate with friends and family. The expensive cost of high-speed broadband is beyond the reach of many libraries’ limited operating budgets.

If the project finds full funding, it will bring all participating Alaska libraries up to the Federal Communications Commission’s minimum broadband Internet speed of 768 Kbps for each work station.

The grant to Alaska State Libraries is contingent upon, among other things, federal approval of a $5.84 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program award. The awards are scheduled to be announced this September. We are hopeful Alaska’s project will find itself among the worthy awardees. Otherwise, we might expect future Akamai “State of the Internet” reports to read much the same as this year.