FCC says ISPs aren't lying about their advertised speeds

One year ago, the Federal Communications Commission began a widespread test of American broadband service providers to see if consumers were getting what they paid for.

It packaged together a handful of free network diagnostic tools that let users check the downlink/uplink speeds and latency of their broadband network provider and then submit it to the commission for review. It also launched a campaign called TestmyISP.com; and conducted a hardware-based test of wireline broadband performance with Whitebox maker SamKnows.

Today, the results of these broadband tests were released in a report called "Measuring Broadband America," which the Commission has made into a sort of ISP report card, showing the companies that live up to their advertised speeds, and giving consumers an easier way to comparison shop between service providers in their areas.

"I expect broadband providers will look closely at the data we're releasing today and ensure they're providing accurate, relevant, and easily understandable information to consumers about their services," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski today. "Providers should be aware that this survey isn't intended as a one-time thing."

Fortunately, it seems most providers passed the test, and that users are generally connecting at speeds that are 80%-90% of advertised maximum speeds.

"While testing broadband speeds is notoriously difficult to do in a way that enables an apples-to-apples comparison across different networks and technologies, we are happy to have had the chance to work with the FCC and other providers on this first attempt at measurement," a statement from Time Warner Cable said today.

Verizon, whose FiOS fiber-to-the-home deployments were shown to perform at speeds HIGHER than the advertised maximum during peak hours, was especially proud of the results today.

"This report gives the FCC and consumers a snapshot of today's competitive broadband marketplace," Kathleen Grillo, Verizon senior vice president for federal regulatory relations said on Monday. "It also demonstrates that Verizon's substantial investment in fiber-to-the-home technology is delivering real benefits to consumers that set us apart from the competition."

While fiber deployments performed as good as --and often better than-- what their providers' promised for both uplink and downlink during peak (7pm-11pm) and off-peak hours, DSL worked at 82% of promised downlink speeds, and 95% of promised uplink; while cable worked at 93% downlink and 108% uplink.

The FCC said these results were much better than those from 2009, but these tests were also more exhaustive. To get these results, SamKnows selected 6800 broadband connected households, and conducted 13 different tests in each home, multiple times per day, over several months. This produced more than 4 billion data points from more than 100 million tests of broadband performance.

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