According to a study by Broadband Now:1:the: estimated number of citizens in the US without access to broadband internet in 2021 was over 42 million. This is because the information cited by the FCC relies on bi-annual self-reporting by ISPs, who often over-report available connectivity for both rural and urban cities. Of those with access, many struggle to get a reliable connection.
It’s been about four months since PIA achieved its 50 Servers in 50 US States milestone. Our main goal was to provide stable and safe internet connections for our users nationwide, and we thought what better way to do that than to have at least one reliable server in each US state?
So how did it really start, and was it all smooth sailing? Let’s find out as I take you on a behind-the-scenes look at our 50 Servers in 50 US States campaign.
A Bit of Background: The State of the Internet in the States
Most people may be surprised to discover that some developing countries have better internet infrastructures than the US. Lack of competition between ISPs in the US makes it hard to find good speeds, unless you want to pay a fortune. Even if you manage to find fairly fast and reasonably priced internet service, reliability can be a factor.
Then there is selection. I literally have one choice for an ISP in my area. I have to pay whatever they charge because there is only one option available. The latest FCC area summary on fixed broadband deployment in the US2:clearly shows that this is a nationwide issue.
As you can see from the graph below, many areas in the US have fewer than two internet providersand none have over three at this point.
PIA firmly believes in the right to online privacy and security no matter what state you live in. Sourcing VPN servers in each of the 50 US States is our way of providing the fastest, most reliable connections we can to our clients in North America.
How PIA Made it Happen:
Installing 50 servers in 50 states didn’t happen overnight. There were: plenty of factors to take into consideration, and the campaign had to be completed while PIA was undergoing a major independent audit.
Addressing Issues with User Feedback:
PIA doesn’t collect user data – our No Logs policy is iron-clad, court-tested, and now independently verified.
Since we don’t collect much information from our apps and network, it’s difficult to get feedback on user experience. In turn, this makes it hard to see where things are good, bad, or missing. While inconvenient for our developers and infrastructure professionals, we feel it’s worth the trouble if it means we get to maintain our strict user privacy standards. Despite this challenge, PIA received invaluable feedback from the people who agreed to share their experience with us.
We always listen to our subscribers when expanding our services, but the decision to offer servers in all 50 states was also driven by a desire to go above and beyond what VPN users in the US have available to them.
Mike MargolisVP of R&D
Although we did not receive requests for servers in all states, PIA decided that the best approach was to cover each state individually.
Location Deployment & Testing:
Choosing the best locations for physical and virtual servers wasn’t that difficult. PIA was able to provision servers in the largest cities in each state — usually the capital. Several solutions were evaluated including our current vendors, and it wasn’t difficult to get other parties on board. Of course, we needed vendors that had a big presence in the US. Once the project team chose a vendor, they worked together with each one to find the best possible location for each server.
The team: started with a proof of concept (POC)picked four locations, and made them available for about two months to make sure the geolocation was persistent.
Geolocation includes external databases that show precisely where a server is based. These databases look to see where the server is located versus where the IP address is geolocated. Server location must match the geolocated IP address exactly. When geolocation is done correctly, you get databases to “think” that a server is wherever its IP address says it is.
After ensuring that the POC was a success, the development team went forward with securing the rest of the locations. The: remaining tasks flowed seamlessly. PIA employed servers and IPs, installed them, and began production.
VPN Speed Matters
One issue the development team had to take into consideration was the speed capabilities for the physical servers chosen for each state. PIA requires servers to provide a minimum speed of 10 Gbps, which means all servers need to meet that criterion. We also use RAM-only servers to minimize the risk to user data privacy and security.
In the end: PIA was able to find vendors with the proper capacity in each stateand: voila!! The 50 Servers in 50 States project became a reality.
Has the campaign been a success?
It’s still a bit early to tell, but demand has significantly increased since July. We can’t be sure just yet whether this is in direct relation to the campaign, but it definitely played a part.
Every new feature we have gives us an advantage over our competitors, especially in the American market.
Iftach Gonen:Head of Partnerships
The 50-4-50 Campaign, along with other major campaigns and our recent independent audit, has helped to increase PIA’s brand authority in the US. In fact, organic traffic for the last three months has visibly increased.
Our success in the US helps distinguish PIA from other VPN services. Iftach also believes the positive feedback received from vendors only adds to our overall activity and demand. Users ultimately benefit from this attention, as the increase in demand potentially leads to further feature development and server expansion.
What’s Next for PIA?
After making servers available in all 50 US states and passing our independent audit with flying colors, the sky’s the limit. We plan to continue providing new features and servers, and to update old ones. Besides, there are still a few countries left to cover.
The good news is, PIA’s new US servers abide by the highest standards of security. The new physical servers used are now part of our US-based data centers, and benefit from the same level of maintenance, privacy, and security as the rest of our global network. That way, you get reliable access and fast connections without sacrificing security or privacy.
- BroadbandNow Estimates Availability for all 50 States – https://broadbandnow.com/research/fcc-broadband-overreporting-by-state
- Fixed Broadband Deployment, Area Summary: – https://broadband477map.fcc.gov/#/area-summary?version=jun2021&type=nation&geoid=0&tech=cfosw&speed=1000_100&vlat=39.04411467010266&vlon=-100.67251501245374&vzoom=3.503167203764326