FCC Report Finds Most ISPs Deliver Broadband Speeds Users Pay For

NEWS ANALYSIS: An FCC report on broadband speeds in the United States shows that Internet service providers are mostly delivering the speeds they advertise or better, with some notable exceptions.

FCC broadband report

Chances are you probably hate your cable provider. You hate them for their arrogance, their broken promises and their many customer service failures.

But don't hate them for giving you slow Internet, because an exhaustive series of tests by the Federal Communications Commission show that if anything, your broadband provider probably over-delivers.

But that's not to suggest that everything is all hunky-dory in Internet land, because it's not. For some types of broadband users, performance is far worse than advertised. For everyone, persistent problems with network congestion degrade Internet access.

To perform the nationwide broadband measurements, the FCC recruited 10,000 volunteers to install what the agency referred to as off-the-shelf routers with the addition of special monitoring software. Those routers delivered network performance statistics to the FCC. While those routers continued their measurements for a year or so, the formal measurement took place during September 2013.

The result is the FCC's "Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report" of 2014. You can see a summary of this report in the official press release.

The bottom line in the FCC report is that most of the big ISPs, especially those that include fiber for the network infrastructure, deliver at least the performance they advertise. Some, including Verizon FiOS, Comcast and Cablevision, routinely deliver as much as 120 percent of their advertised download speeds.

But on the downside, DSL subscribers have it worse, with only about 64 percent getting the speeds they were promised. Ironically, it was Verizon DSL that was the worst of the bunch.

However, as you probably know, there's more to good Internet performance than the data rate you're getting from your ISP. The FCC said in its media conference call that their testing had revealed serious network congestion at interchange points. Interchange points are where Internet traffic joins or leaves your ISP's network, such as when Netflix puts your streaming video on to your network to send to you.

Because of the way the FCC's test was set up, the study did not reveal details of what caused the congestion or where it happened. Instead, the congestion was treated as an anomaly and that data will be provided separately.

But it's also worth noting, as a senior FCC official mentioned during the briefing, that the agency will be looking into this congestion, peering anomalies and the issue of paying for access. One such congestion problem is with Netflix and its access to Verizon's network. Netflix is already paying for faster access, but is still having significant congestion problems.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...