Advertised broadband speeds actually pretty accurate, FCC finds

Report shows advertised speeds more in tune with reality than a year ago

There used to be three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and advertised broadband speeds.

But while the first two will likely be with us forever, the last one is slowly being eradicated, according to a new report from the FCC. The report, dubbed "Measuring Broadband in America," found that most carriers' average download speeds are within 20% of their advertised speeds, while their average upload speeds are within 10% of their advertised rates.

This is a significant improvement from a year ago, when the FCC criticized carriers for using only maximum download speeds in advertisements, since consumers were actually only getting half the speeds that ISPs were advertising. The FCC noted that such speeds were unrealistic to expect since they didn't account for congestion during peak hours, outdated computers and routers or websites that weren't optimized for broadband connectivity.

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Needless to say, the FCC's latest findings show that ISPs are doing much better on the truth-in-advertising front. Using a group of volunteers across the country to test connection speeds in March, the FCC found that only Cablevision's broadband service consistently delivered download speeds of less than 80% of its advertised rates. Other than Cablevision, AT&T's DSL services experienced the biggest gap between advertised and actual download speeds, notching average speeds of around 80% of advertised speeds during peak hours. Verizon's FiOS fiber optic network fared the best among the networks surveyed by being the only service to deliver download speeds during peak hours that were more than 110% greater than advertised rates.

Breaking things down by technology, the FCC found that DSL services delivered download speeds that averaged 82% of their advertised rates while cable services delivered download speeds that averaged 93% of their advertised rates. Fiber-to-the-home services fared the best by delivering download speeds that averaged 114% of their advertised rates. There was much greater reliability with upload speeds, however, as both cable and FTTH on average exceeded their advertised upload speeds while DSL services averaged 95% of their advertised upload speeds.

During his remarks on the new study today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he was pleased that ISPs were giving consumers much more accurate information on what they can expect from their Internet service.

"We found that most major ISPs are providing service close to what they're advertising," he said. "This represents a significant improvement over the findings from two years ago, when we first shone a light on this issue. We also found that, while there are some differences between technologies, DSL, cable and fiber-to-the-home are all delivering quality service generally consistent with what they advertise."

The FCC first launched its own do-it-yourself connection speed testing program on the Broadband.gov website last year to help consumers "test their broadband service and report areas where broadband is not available." Taking the test requires users to list the address they're accessing the Web from and also whether they are using the Web at home or at a business. From there, the test measures the connection's download and upload speeds as well as its latency and jitter.

Learn more about this topic

FCC broadband test greeted with skepticism

FCC: Consumers get half of advertised broadband speeds 

Breaking down the carriers' '4G' wireless spin

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