FCC says cable barely delivers advertised broadband speeds, while fiber and satellite exceed promises

Cable operators deliver an average of 99 percent on their promised broadband speeds, but fiber-optic and satellite services now exceed their promised download speeds, the Federal Communications Commission has reported.

For the first time, the FCC’s third and latest study — Measuring Broadband America — included results for satellite broadband, with test results collected from ViaSat that showed a 137 percent performance boost over the advertised speed.

The FCC said the satellite industry’s new generation of higher-performance satellites now makes it possible to include comparisons between satellite and wireline technologies. Though satellite service now maxes out at 12Mb/s, customers are getting those 12Mb/s and some extra speed.

Fiber to the home also exceeds what’s being advertised. Verizon’s FIOS fiber service delivered 118 percent higher performance than it claims.

The report showed that cable performed better than DSL, which delivered advertised speeds 85 percent of the time. Two cable providers exceeded their promised download speeds during peak usage periods (7 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time): Cablevision Systems at 115 percent and Comcast at 103 percent.

Providers whose averages were near the advertised speeds were Mediacom Communications (99 percent), Charter Communications (98 percent) and Cox Communications (97 percent).

The worse performance numbers came from Time Warner Cable (94 percent), Verizon DSL (88 percent), AT&T (87 percent), CenturyLink (87 percent), Insight Communications, which is now part of Time Warner Cable (85 percent) and Qwest, now owned by CenturyLink (82 percent).

Among the 14 ISPs studied, the FCC found the average subscribed speed tier is now 15.6Mb/s, representing an average annual speed increase of about 20 percent

For the first time the study measured download speeds of 75Mb/s per second.

The latest report is based on information collected in September 2012 from a five-month interval from the previous data collection.

What’s not addressed in the report are data caps. Last summer, the FCC asked for comments on how data caps might affect broadband quality. The commission wanted to know if a service with a cap that delivers high speeds most of the time is as good as a service that has slightly lower consistency but no cap? Those comments were due last month, so there’s no mention of data caps in this report.

The survey covered more than 80 percent of the residential market. The FCC measures 13 different variables as part of its study. The data comes from special routers inside roughly 10,000 homes. Those routers report on upload and download speeds, latency and customers’ service tiers to create a nationwide picture of broadband quality

“Over the next year, we anticipate that providers will continue to innovate and increase their offerings in the higher-speed tiers,” the FCC said in the report. It noted that the cable industry has announced that it intends to extend its services to rates beyond 100Mb/s in the near future. Verizon FiOS now offers rates up to 300Mb/s in select parts of its market footprint, and Google has initiated 1Gb/s service in Kansas City, MO.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) said the FCC report shows the broadband marketplace as “healthy, competitive and growing.”

The NCTA pointed to the improvement in satellite broadband, which the study showed had significantly improved its service quality, delivering well above its advertised speeds. That, the group said, makes a stronger argument for deregulation.