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New FCC Report Looks at Fixed Broadband ISP Speeds

June 23, 2014

New FCC Report Looks at Fixed Broadband ISP Speeds

By Michael Guta
TMCnet Contributing Writer

Speed is the name of the game when it comes to Internet access, and service providers are in a perpetual race to claim the number one spot. Because everyone has access to the same technology, all it takes is to deploy said technology and achieve the fastest available speed until something new comes along, however that is not always the case. While some companies have the capital to invest in new technology, others have to wait until the price comes down or they raise enough capital, which could prove to be too late because something new might be available. The different technologies used by service providers means there are different speeds available to consumers, and their advertised claims might not be as accurate. A new Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) report has come to the same conclusion after testing download and upload speeds of top Internet service providers (ISPs), although the differences are not that dramatic.

The FCC has been conducting this test every year since 2011 as part of its Measuring Broadband America program, but this year it also looked at the advertised speeds these companies claimed. The agency drew a sample population from subscribers of ISPs serving more than 80 percent of the residential marketplace around the country. It consisted of thousands of volunteers across the United States from a wide range of population and service tier demographics.

The report made five primary observations on the state of residential broadband services from cable, DSL and satellite broadband service providers.

1. Many ISPs now closely meet or exceed the speeds they advertise, but there continues to be room for improvement.

2. New metric this year – consistency of speeds – also shows significant room for improvement.

3. Consumers are continuing to migrate to faster speed tiers.

4. Improvements in speed are not uniform across speed tiers tested.

5. Sharp differences in upload speeds.

All ISPs, except for Verizon (News - Alert) DSL, CenturyLink, Frontier DSL and Windstream met 90 percent of performance or better, on average during peak periods; it is important to note these four ISPs use DSL technology.

Verizon Fiber, Cablevision and ViaSat (News - Alert)/Exede delivered faster-than-advertised speeds, while all the Comcast, Frontier Fiber, Time Warner Cable and Cox customers received more than 90 percent of the speed.

The ISPs in the report on average delivered 97 percent of advertised sustained download speeds during the peak usage hours with DSL-based services at 91 percent, cable-based services at102 percent, fiber-to-the-home services at 113 percent, and satellite at 138 percent. The sustained upload speeds on average across all ISPs was 107 percent of what was advertised.

The FCC is looking into why DSL was not able to deliver as promised, and it said it is going to contact the CEOs of the companies whose results could have been better to demand an explanation and improvements.

Recent news on net neutrality, which addresses issues of Internet speeds, has the FCC under greater scrutiny as it tries to manage the battle raging with ISPs, content providers, developers and tech companies; it will be interesting to see where in the totem pole the consumer ends up.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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