The Federal Communications Commission today released the results of its ongoing nationwide performance study of consumers’ fixed broadband Internet access service in its fifth “Measuring Broadband America” report. The report furthers the Commission’s efforts to provide greater transparency about network performance to help consumers make more informed choices about broadband services.
This year’s report shows that broadband speed offerings to the average consumer continue to increase at a rapid pace, and broadband service providers generally are delivering actual speeds that meet or exceed advertised speeds. However, results are not uniform across technologies. The report finds a growing disparity in advertised download speeds between many DSL-based broadband services and most cable- and fiber-based broadband services.
“Today’s report confirms that advances in network technology are yielding significant improvements in broadband speeds and quality,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Faster, better broadband will unleash new innovations and new services to improve the lives of the American people. This comprehensive assessment of broadband performance helps to keep consumers informed and hold ISPs accountable.”
This year’s report highlights the following findings:
Significant growth in advertised broadband speeds available to consumers, though the results are not uniform across technologies. Averaged across all participating ISPs, maximum advertised speeds increased from 37.2 Mbps in September 2013 to 72 Mbps in September 2014 – an increase of 94 percent. Largely spurred by the deployment of enabling technologies such as DOCSIS 3, the maximum advertised download speeds offered by ISPs using cable systems increased from 12-20 Mbps in March 2011 to 50-105 Mbps in September 2014. However, popular maximum DSL speed offerings have not kept up with that growth. While average DSL consumer speeds have increased, popular maximum DSL speed offerings have stayed largely stagnant since 2011, with most DSL providers offering maximum download rates of 12 Mbps or less.
Actual speeds experienced by most ISPs’ subscribers are close to or exceed advertised speeds. All ISPs using cable, fiber or satellite technologies advertise speeds for services that on average are close to or below the actual speeds experienced by their subscribers. However, some DSL providers continue to advertise speeds that on average exceed actual speeds.
Consumers with access to faster services continue to migrate to higher service tiers. Participating panelists who in September 2013 subscribed to service tiers with advertised speeds between 15 and 30 Mbps – offered mostly by cable and fiber services – migrated at high rates within the following year to a service tier with a higher advertised download speed. In contrast, among panelists subscribed in September 2013 to service tiers with advertised download speeds of less than 15 Mbps – offered mostly by DSL services – only a few percent migrated within the following year to a service tier with a higher download speed.
Latency and packet loss vary by technologies. Consumers generally experienced low latency – the time it takes for a data packet to travel from one point to another in a network – on DSL, cable and fiber systems. Higher latency in satellite services may affect the perceived quality of highly interactive applications such as VoIP calls, video chat and multiplayer games. Consumers generally experienced low packet loss – the percentage of packets that are sent by the source but not received by the destination – on cable, satellite and fiber systems. Moderate packet loss experienced by a few DSL providers may affect the perceived quality of video chat, multiplayer games and video streaming.
About the Measuring Broadband America Report
The FCC released the first Measuring Broadband America Report in August 2011. That report covered data collected in March 2011 and found that most broadband providers who participated in the study were providing over 80 percent of advertised speeds during peak usage periods. The FCC’s second report, released in July 2012 found that ISPs on average delivered 96 percent of advertised download speed during peak usage period. The FCC’s third report included results on satellite technology for the first time based on test results from ViaSat, a major satellite services provider, and showed significant improvements had been made to satellite broadband technology service quality. The FCC’s fourth report, released in June 2014, showed most ISPs delivered actual speeds that meet or exceed advertised speeds, but some providers showed need for improvement with respect to consistency of speeds.
This report, the FCC’s fifth Measuring Broadband America Report, covers data collected in September 2014, and for the first time includes regional and state analysis as well as an expanded focus on speed consistency.
The FCC began measuring broadband performance in response to recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. Since then, by continuing to shine a spotlight on actual versus advertised speeds, the FCC is ensuring accountability, increased transparency and enhancing competition in the marketplace. The report is part of a comprehensive series of initiatives that draw upon cooperation between the Commission, industry, and other stakeholders to promote transparency and ensure that consumers get the information they need to make informed marketplace decisions.
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