Internet users in the U.S. connected at an average rate of 7.2 Mbps in the third quarter of 2012 – a 20% increase over the same period a year earlier, according to the latest State of the Internet report from Akamai Technologies.

Driving the speed increase was a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. Internet users who connected at rates above 10 Mbps. That number was 18% during the study period, an increase of 73% over the same period of 2011.

The percentage of U.S. Internet users connecting at speeds above 4 Mbps also increased, although less dramatically. More than 60% of U.S. Internet users (62%) connected at speeds above 4 Mbps, according to Akamai – an increase of 13% over the previous year.

Once again Delaware was the U.S. state with the highest average connection speed. That number was 10.9Mbps  for the third quarter of 2012, an increase of 27% over the previous year. Delaware has topped the average speed list nearly every quarter for at least three years.

Eastern states continued to dominate the Top 10 list measured by average connection speed – with the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia ranking in the Top 10. The only non-Eastern states in the Top 10 were Utah and Washington.

All states in the Top 10 had average connection speeds of at least 8.4 Mbps.

As with the U.S. overall, much of the growth in individual states’ average connection speed was driven by steep increases in the percentage of users connecting at speeds above 10 Mbps. All the Top 10 states measured by that metric saw 23% or more of Internet users connecting at the higher speeds.

Four of the states in the Top 10 saw increases of 100% or more year-over-year in the number of high-speed (above 10 Mbps) users. Pennsylvania saw a 149% increase, while New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and Connecticut saw increases of 142%, 137% and 100% respectively.

It was New Hampshire, however, that had the highest percentage of Internet users (35%) connecting at speeds above 10 Mbps. New Hampshire also had the highest percentage of users (87%) connecting at speeds above 4 Mbps