BroadbandNearly one-fifth (19%) of U.S. Internet users had download speeds of 10 Mbps or higher as of the fourth quarter of 2012, according to new research released today from Akamai Technologies. This is a 5.5% increase from the previous quarter and nearly double (90%) what Akamai found in the same period a year earlier.

This is the second quarterly report in a row in which Akamai found a big jump in people connecting at speeds above 10 Mbps in comparison with the previous year, suggesting that last quarter’s findings were not an anomaly. Akamai’s findings were published in its quarterly “State of the Internet” report.

Those in eastern states are the most likely to connect to the Internet at speeds above 10 Mbps. New Hampshire had the highest percentage of Internet users connecting at speeds above 10 Mbps, with more than a third (34%) connecting at that rate. Eight other eastern states and the District of Columbia had 27% or more of Internet users connecting at rates above 10 Mbps.

The other eight states were New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Connecticut.

These results are not surprising, considering that eastern parts of the country are the most densely populated and, accordingly, service providers there are most able to cost-justify an investment in higher-speed broadband.

The average broadband connection speed in the U.S. is now 7.4 Mbps, according to Akamai – an increase of 2.3% over the previous quarter and 28% over the previous year.

Here, too, eastern states dominated the rankings. At 10.8 Mbps, Vermont had the highest average connection speed, displacing Delaware which traditionally tops the rankings. Delaware came in second this year, with an average connection speed of 10.6 Mbps.

The only non-eastern state in the top 10 was Utah, which had an average connection speed of 9.5 Mbps. Other states in the top 10 were New Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

All states in the top 10 had average connection speeds of 9.1 Mbps or higher.