It could be considered an indicator of the status and importance of high-speed Internet in our contemporary culture that bandwidth has become enough of a necessity in American households that basic access is no longer enough. In other words, it’s not a question of having a car in every garage, but how much power is under the hood.

According to In-Stat, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market research firm, the emphasis now is clearly on download speeds. The company conducted an annual survey of U.S. broadband households, which found downstream speeds increased an average of 34 percent in 2010.

The survey pegged the average download speeds for broadband subscribers at 9.54 megabits per second (Mbps), up from 7.12 Mbps 12 months earlier. The average downstream speed increased by 71 percent over the last two years across all access technologies, including cable modem, digital subscriber line (DSL), fiber to the home (FTTH) and others.

The emergence of newly competitive access technologies, such as mobile wireless broadband, appears to have provided a competitive incentive to compel providers to increase broadband speeds. The survey found that 38 percent of users had a mobile wireless broadband connection in addition to their broadband in the home.

While consumers have demanded more, providers have stayed in their good graces by improving the service while keeping prices at a reasonable level. The In-Stat survey found that the average price for broadband service increased by only 4 percent in the last year. Principal analyst Mike Paxton said “the survey also highlights that the majority of U.S. broadband subscribers are generally satisfied with the current speed of their broadband service.”