Gap Between Actual, Advertised Broadband Speeds Falling: FCC Report

The report found during peak periods, DSL-based services delivered download speeds at 82 percent of advertised speeds.

A report from the Federal Communications Commission found the gap between advertised and actually broadband speeds has improved "substantially" compared with figures from 2009.

On average, the report, "Measuring Broadband America," found during peak periods DSL-based services delivered download speeds that were 82 percent of advertised speeds, cable-based services delivered 93 percent of advertised speeds, and fiber-to-the-home services delivered 114 percent of advertised speeds.

Peak period speeds decreased from 24-hour average speeds by 0.4 percent for fiber-to-the-home services, 5.5 percent for DSL-based services, and 7.3 percent for cable-based service, according to the report. Only three ISPs had speed decreases of 10 percent or greater during the peak period (as compared to 24-hour average speeds).

In specific tests designed to mimic basic Web browsing-accessing a series of Web pages, but not streaming video or using video chat sites or applications-performance increased with higher speeds, but only up to about 10 Mbps. For these high-speed tiers, consumers are unlikely to experience much if any improvement in basic Web browsing from increased speed, such as moving from a 10 Mbps broadband offering to a 25 Mbps offering, the report noted.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was joined by Consumers Union Communications Policy Counsel Parul Desai, ITIF Research Fellow Richard Bennett and Best Buy retail customer solutions manager Carlton Tucker to announce the release of new consumer empowerment tools aimed at helping Americans choose the best broadband service package for their homes.

A recent FCC survey found that 80 percent of consumers did not know what speed they purchased from their ISP (Internet service provider). As a result, in conjunction with the release of "Measuring Broadband America," the FCC released consumer resources to help Americans better understand broadband speeds, assess their home needs, choose the right package and continuously evaluate broadband performance.

"For consumers, choosing the right broadband service can be a daunting task. Today, it gets a little bit easier. To help empower consumers and ensure a healthy broadband market, in addition to this report, the FCC is releasing a step-by-step online guide to choosing home broadband service," Genachowski said in a statement. "The guide walks consumers through the steps they should take when choosing the service that's best for them. We also encourage current subscribers to check their bills and ask their providers what service they have, and make sure it matches with what they need."

The FCC began focused attention on this issue in the National Broadband Plan. Since then, by continuing to shine a spotlight on actual versus advertised speeds, the FCC is working to ensure accountability, increasing transparency and enhancing competition in the marketplace. If consumers make informed choices, companies will likely invest in new products, services and business models to compete more aggressively and offer greater value, the FCC said.

In addition, consumers can utilize the FCC's Broadband Speed Test, which allows them to click a button on their desktop computers or smartphones and get a general measure of how fast their wired or wireless broadband service is running. American consumers have run more than one million speed tests, according to the FCC. The efforts build on continuing work by the FCC to advance its Consumer Empowerment Agenda, which includes resources to help Americans protect themselves against cramming, mystery fees, and bill shock along with greater openness and transparency efforts to make more data easily available to the public.