FCC says broadband ISPs routinely exaggerate connection speeds

The Federal Communications Commission has said that ISPs are not truthful in advertising broadband speeds, often choosing to use maximum connection speeds in attracting customers. The finding came as part of a larger study on broadband performance released this week.

While the advertised speeds have averaged in the range of 7 to 8 Mbps, actual speeds are roughly half that. This gap was found to be about the same across all technologies, including cable, DSL, and fiber to the home. The FCC argued that the gap may cause confusion among consumers as the speeds determine the consumer experience.

Researchers found that the advertised speed has generally increased about 20 percent each year since 1997. At this rate, about every four years or so the speed would double, they said.

"The actual speed that consumers experience influences their ability to access and utilize applications and content," researchers said in the report. "Consumers need a better, publicly agreed upon measure of broadband performance that reflects the network operation and end-user experience."

In advertising their download speeds, ISPs are not taking into account various factors. For example, the quality of the network lines bringing broadband into the home will obviously affect speed, as will network congestion. ISPs are too often using the "up to" speeds as a way to separate themselves from competitors -- yet rarely if ever are consumers actually getting that type of performance.

To this extent, the FCC is working to pressure broadband providers to more accurately report speeds in advertising, and would support efforts to come up with a standard that could be used to derive these numbers.

Such work is being done as part of the National Broadband Plan -- a set of initiatives proposed by the Obama Administration and the FCC to help ensure broader availability of broadband services, as well as faster speeds to those already using it.

It is all but certain this would not come easy -- ISPs would more than likely resist as settling on a standard would likely cause them to have to reduce their advertised speeds considerably. This could even cause an uproar among consumers, as they would realize that in many cases, the speed they were paying for was not truly there in the first place.

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