The FCC’s recently released paper called Measuring Broadband America, which reveals results of a study on broadband performance, paints an encouraging picture of how advertised broadband rates stack up against reality. It also reinforces some of what we already knew about broadband, such as the fact that fiber-to-the-home delivers overall superior performance to cable HFC and telco DSL solutions.
As part of its ongoing quest to make information about broadband more transparent to U.S. consumers, the FCC tapped SamKnows, and the assistance of various industry experts and citizen volunteers, to conduct the study. The purpose of this activity was to gauge the performance of the nation’s largest broadband providers and help set the stage to enable consumers better address the following questions:
- Will a particular offering allow me to browse the web quickly and easily?
- Will it enable me to use new applications that help me maintain my health, search for a job, or take courses online?
- What should I look for in a provider if I want to watch high-definition online video or play online video games?
- Does a given speed tier have sufficient upload capacity to enable videoconferencing?
- Will a higher-speed, higher-priced service improve my Internet experience?
- Can I get by with a lower-priced service?
- And does the speed a provider advertises match the actual speed I will receive at my home?
The services of 13 of the largest U.S. broadband services companies were considered during the study, which looked at the performance of services delivered to thousands of subscribers during the month of March. The FCC notes that the report emphasizes two metrics that it believes are of particular interest to consumers: speed and latency.
The report revealed that most ISPs delivered actual download speeds within 20 percent of advertised speeds, with modest performance declines during peak periods.
Additionally, it indicated that upload performance is much less affected than download performance during peak periods and it reported that during the study period almost all ISPs reached 90 percent or above of their advertised rate, even during peak times.
“In general, we found that even during peak periods, the majority of ISPs were providing actual speeds that were generally 80 percent or better than advertised rates, though there wasconsiderable variation among the ISPs tested,” according to the study.
It went on note that DSL on average met 82 percent of advertised download speed during peak periods, cable met 93 percent, and fiber-to-the-home met 114 percent of advertised speeds.
Upload performance, meanwhile, is generally better than download performance during peak periods. “Fiber-to-the-home services typically outperform other service tiers, offering performance levels approximately 115 percent of advertised rates during peak periods. Other ISPs are either close to or exceed advertised rates,” according to the report.
As for latency, the report goes on to say, fiber-to-the-home technology has the best performance, with a 17 millisecond average during the peak period. Meanwhile, cable averages 28 milliseconds and DSL averages 44 milliseconds and ranges as high as approximately 75 milliseconds.