FCC: US broadband providers deliver close to advertised speeds

Some cable, fiber and satellite providers deliver faster speeds than advertised, a new FCC report says

U.S. broadband providers deliver nearly the residential broadband speeds they advertise, with a handful of large providers exceeding the promised service, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said in a new report.

On average, U.S. broadband providers surveyed in September delivered sustained speeds at 97 percent of advertised speeds, up slightly from the FCC's July broadband report, and up from 87 percent in the agency's August 2011 report.

The new report found that cable provider Comcast delivered 103 percent of promised download speeds during peak hours, Cablevision delivered 115 percent, Verizon's Fios service delivered 118 percent, and satellite provider ViaSat's Exede service delivered 137 percent. ViaSat offers 12Mbps download, and 3Mbps upload service for US$49.99 to $129.99 a month, depending on the data cap.

Providers not meeting their advertised download speeds during peak hours included Qwest at 82 percent and Windstream at 81 percent. Verizon's DSL service delivered 88 percent of advertised download speeds. The FCC report said AT&T's speeds were 87 percent of advertised speeds, but a company spokesman disputed that characterization.

AT&T advertises its broadband service in speed tiers, not a single speed. The FCC report said AT&T delivered a sustained download speed of 10.88Mbps for its 12Mbps service, but AT&T advertises that service as a 6.1-to-12Mbps service, he said.

"Our wired broadband Internet access customers should expect to see download speeds from the AT&T network to the network interface device at their home ... within the speed tier of their service plan," the spokesman said.

The FCC report found that DSL tended to deliver the worst performance compared to advertised speeds, with DSL giving customers 85 percent of advertised download speeds. Cable delivered 99 percent and fiber 115 percent.

The report also said U.S. residential broadband customers are migrating to faster speed tiers. Since the FCC's last broadband report, the average speed tier that customers subscribed to increased from 14.3Mbps to 15.6Mbps. Nearly half of broadband customers who subscribed to speeds of less than 1Mbps six months ago have adopted higher speeds, and nearly a quarter who subscribed to speeds between 1Mbps and 3Mbps have upgraded, the FCC said.

"Faster broadband has brought untold benefits to millions of Americans -- from distance learning to distance healthcare," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "This is good news for consumers and the economy, but we can't be satisfied. To unleash innovation and realize broadband's full potential, we must continue to see increases in broadband speed and capacity."

The FCC also noted significant improvements to satellite broadband service quality. Satellite technology has the highest overall latency, but the test results indicated that during peak periods, 90 percent of satellite consumers received 140 percent or better of the advertised speed of 12Mbps from ViaSat.

Earlier this week, tech-focused think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report saying the average broadband speed in the U.S. is 29.6Mbps, including both commercial and residential services. Several critics questioned the assertion by the ITIF that U.S. broadband services were competitive with those in other developed nations.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags ViaSatInformation Technology and Innovation FoundationtelecommunicationWindstreamJulius GenachowskiCablevisionQwestU.S. Federal Communications CommissioncomcastgovernmentVerizon Communicationsbroadbandat&t

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