Most broadband providers in the U.S. continue to improve service performance by delivering actual speeds that meet or exceed advertised speeds during the past year, according to the latest "Measuring Broadband America" report released by the FCC. Some providers showed significant room for improvement, particularly with respect to consistency of speeds.
The FCC noted 5 key trends in its data:
1. ISPs continue to deliver the combined upload/download speeds they advertise, but a new metric this year – consistency of speeds – shows there’s still work to be done: This year’s report shows that average speeds are close to advertised, but not always available. Cablevision, for example, delivered 100 percent or better of advertised speed to 80 percent of our panelists 80 percent of the time during peak periods, but about half the ISPs delivered about 90 percent or better of advertised speed, and several ISPs delivered less than 60 percent or better of advertised speeds 80 percent of the time to 80 percent of the panelists.
2. Download speeds performance varies by service tier, with some ISPs delivering less than 80 percent of advertised speeds: All ISPs except for one (Qwest, which had a 16 percent performance improvement in download speed) were within 10 percent of last year’s results, i.e. largely unchanged. Overall trends were encouraging. For download speeds, ten of 14 reporting ISPs showed slightly improved download performance, four were virtually unchanged and only one ISP (Verizon offering DSL service) showed results slightly worse than last year. However, Windstream’s 1.5 Mbps speed tier only delivers 78 percent of advertised speeds, a low among all ISPs at all speed tiers.
3. Fiber and Cable technologies continue to evolve to higher speed offerings, but DSL is beginning to lag behind: Additionally, while providers using cable and fiber access technologies generally met or exceeded their advertised tiers, providers using DSL technology generally failed to meet their advertised speeds. This may indicate differences in the economics of upgrading DSL relative to other technologies, and investment choices by broadband providers or the price points at which higher speeds are made available for DSL.
4. Consumers continue to migrate to higher speed tiers: We continue to see a migration of consumers from lower speed tiers to higher offerings both by consumers electing to purchase higher speeds and through upgrades of standard offerings by Internet service providers. A simple average of service tiers surveyed in 2013 shows an average advertised speed of 21.2 Mbps, representing an increase of approximately 36 percent from 15.6 Mbps in 2012.
5. Upload speeds vary sharply: Many studies have shown that consumer Internet traffic today is asymmetric – consumers typically download far more data than they upload. Consistent with that behavior, most service offerings typically have far higher download than upload rates. Verizon offers upload rates as high as 35 Mbps. Frontier offers upload rates of 25 Mbps. Both are fiber-based.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “Consumers deserve to get what they pay for. While it’s encouraging to see that in the past these reports have encouraged providers to improve their services, I’m concerned that some providers are failing to deliver consistent speeds to consumers that are commensurate to their advertised speeds. As a result, I’ve directed FCC staff to write to the underperforming companies to ask why this happened and what they will do to solve this.”
The report is posted online.