FCC Releases Actual Internet Speeds

The FCC has collected data showing real-world speeds that American’s receive from their ISP’s for the first time.

Research director S. Derek Turner from the advocacy group Free Press made a statement saying “No matter how industry tries to put a positive spin on those results, the report shows conclusively that many Americans are simply not getting what they pay for, this study indicates Comcast, Cox, and Verizon FiOS largely perform well, but other companies like Cablevision, AT&T, MediaCom, and Frontier all fail to deliver their customers the quality of service promised. In every other industry, giving your customers less than why they paid for is a very serious offense. ISPs should be held to the same standard, no matter how much they try to spin their way out of it.”

However, on the other side of the field, Nick Feamster, a Georgia Tech professor who worked with the FCC on proper metrics had an opposing opinion. “We found that the performance of US ISPs more consistently matches their advertised promises than the ISPs in other countries – they do a pretty good job.”

While the FCC likes to keep a neutral standpoint on their evaluations, they did note that “actual download speeds are substantially closer to advertised speeds than was found in data from early 2009.” Instead, the FCC report is all about the data, which shows the majority of ISPs generally offer 80-90 perfect of their advertised speeds, even during peak hours of 7pm-11pm, with cable and fiber services offering even higher-than-advertised speeds for the entire day.

After looking through the data, one ISP made a very prominent impression: Cablevision, who had horrid download speeds which dropped nearly 50 percent of their advertised speed during peak hours.

The FCC obtained this data with the help of a company called SamKnows, which had run a similar test for the UK government. SamKnows recruited 78,000 Internet users from across the US, then weeded out 69,000 of them and gave the lucky 9000 a specially configured router that would take a series of measurements during March 2011 that tested broadband speed from a user’s home to a remote server across the Internet. The results were cross-checked against ISP-Installed reference points to ensure accuracy. Although the test seemed to show that fiber was the best-performing technology, while DSL was running in last, with speeds modestly behind Cable.

The data can give consumers a standardized way to compare Internet connection quality among ISPs, rather than having to guess based on advertised speeds and prices. This now allows the chance to compare lag between ISPs or between service tiers. The biggest improvement from the data shows, apart from Cablevision, Internet speeds no longer drop dramatically when everyone comes home from work in the evening.  For those who are running Verizon’s FiOS – this entire article happily doesn’t apply to you at all. Check out this pdf.


Learn more the author of this post:

Andrew Wilson
Andrew has been poking and prodding computers for 11 years who occasionally writes about Technology and Video Games while working towards getting his Bachelors in Computer Engineering. He is also one of the contributors to the Let's Play's on the site.