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First-ever FCC report measuring ISP broadband performance paints positive picture

The FCC’s first-ever report on wireline broadband performance in the United States released Aug. 2 finds broadband providers on the whole are doing a better job of delivering download speeds closer to their advertised speeds than a couple of years ago.

The report, “Measuring Broadband America - A Report on Consumer Wireline Broadband Performance in the U.S.,” focuses on 13 of the nation’s biggest broadband providers, which account for 86 percent of all U.S. wireline broadband connections.

Authored by the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology and the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau, the 35-page report presents the findings of a rigorous study of actual home broadband performance and drew on data collected from 6800 volunteers and measurement data taken in their homes in March. The study focused on the pieces of the Internet pathway under the direct or indirect control the volunteers’ ISPs on the ISPs’ own network, including modems and Internet gateways.

The study found that most ISPs delivered actual download speeds within 20 percent of their advertised speeds over a 24-hour period. During the peak periods of 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., performance experienced “modest” declines, the report said. Upload performance was less affected during peak periods.

“Almost all ISPs reach 90 percent or above of their advertised rate, even during peak periods,” the report said.

As would be expected, results varied by the technology in use — DSL, cable and fiber-to-the-home.

Of the 13 ISPs measured, Verizon’s fiber service topped the scale comparing actual download speeds to advertised speeds, delivering nearly 120 percent of advertised speed over a 24-hour period and during the peak period, while Cablevision occupied the last spot on the scale, delivering less than 80 percent of advertised speed over a 24-hour period and below 60 percent during the peak period.

Cox led the upload speed rankings, delivering more than 120 percent of advertised speed during both the peak and 24-hour periods, while Qwest came in last on the actual-to-advertised upload scale, delivering just over 80 percent of the advertised upload speed for both periods.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski visited a Washington, D.C., Best Buy retail store to announce the release of the report. During remarks at the store, Genachowski said he was pleased by the results of the survey.

“Information for consumers enhances competition among providers of broadband Internet access services, and increases the likelihood that consumers will be better served and receive greater value,” he said.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.