FCC Report Supplies Fuel for Net Neutrality Opponents
August 17, 2010
hogs account for about 1 percent of residential Web users but 25 percent of all
online traffic, according to the latest technical paper released by the Federal
Communications Commission. The FCC noted that for 2009, the median Web surfer
used about 2 gigabytes per month on home connections, while the average was 9
“The extreme difference between average and median data usage is principally
due to a relatively small number of users who consume very large amounts of
data each month--sometimes terabytes per month,” the FCC’s Technical Paper No.
4 states. “The most data-intensive 1 percent of residential consumers appear to
account for roughly 25 percent of all traffic.”
The top 3 percent generate 40 percent of traffic; the top 10 percent, 70
percent; and the top 20 percent generate 80 percent of all traffic.
“While half of all users consume less than 2 GB per month, the last 6 percent
of users consume more than 15 GB each month,” the paper said.
The findings fly in the face of the commission’s support of Network Neutrality,
the embattled notion that Internet service providers should not be allowed to
regulate traffic. The issue’s been a hot button since Comcast was discovered
“throttling” BitTorrent peer-to-peer traffic in 2007. The FCC ordered Comcast
to stop, but a federal court overruled its authority to do so in April.
The FCC considered changing the legal classification of broadband so it could
regulate ISPs while it sought a compromise with industry players behind the
scenes. Those quiet negotiations were said to be derailed by leaked news that
Google and Verizon were off in a corner discussing throttling. The two later
applied to wireless broadband networks only, but the revelation already threw a
wrench into the FCC’s efforts, The New
York Times reports.
It also fired up Net Neutrality supporters on Capitol Hill, including
Democratic congress members Ed Markey, Anna Eshoo, Jay Inslee and Mike Doyle.
The quartet delivered a
to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski today imploring him to pursue the so-called
“third way,” i.e., the legal reclassification of broadband.
“Rather than expansion upon a proposal by two large communications companies
with a vested financial interest in the outcome, formal FCC action is needed,”
the lawmakers said.
While Technical Paper No. 4 gives throttling proponents ammunition, its intent
was to clarify the target broadband speed in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.
The plan put forth a goal of creating availability of 4 Mbps
actual download speeds across the
country. The FCC emphasized actual speeds because it found that they are around
half of that advertised by the ISP.
“In 2009, average and median advertised download speeds were 7–8 Mbps, across
technologies,” the FCC paper said. “However, FCC analysis shows that the median
actual speed consumers experienced in the first half of 2009 was roughly 3
Mbps, while the average actual speed was approximately 4 Mbps. Therefore actual
download speeds experienced by U.S. consumers appear to lag advertised speeds
by roughly 50 percent.”
Additional findings include penetration--72 percent of U.S. households have
Internet connections. The report also says the average ’Net user has been
online for 10 years, and spends around an hour a day online. By comparison, the
FCC notes that the U.S. average TV viewing time is five hours a day.
More details are available in the FCC’s 30-page “OBI
Technical Paper No. 4.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams