Think you're not getting the download speed your broadband provider promised? You might be right but a study by the Federal Communications Commission finds many providers are not only meeting but exceeding their advertised speeds.
That's a big improvement over 2011, when the first FCC survey found many providers not delivering the speeds they promised.
“Faster broadband has brought untold benefits to millions of Americans - from distance learning to distance healthcare," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said. "This is good news for consumers and the economy, but we can’t be satisfied. To unleash innovation and realize broadband’s full potential, we must continue to see increases in broadband speed and capacity.”
In this year’s report, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) maintained
their performance levels, delivering 97 percent of advertised speeds during peak periods. One provider significantly improved actual performance speeds by 13 percent from the previous report.
Did they do it by downgrading the speeds they promised, as some skeptics might suspect? No, said the FCC, the providers have actually improved their networks to improve performance.
Consumers have also doing some upgrading of their own, the report found, ordering faster speeds to satisfy their thirst for movies, music and other bandwidth-hungry applications.
The FCC found that the average speed tier subscribed to by consumers increased from 14.3 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 15.6 Mbps. Nearly half of consumers who subscribed to speeds of less than 1 Mbps six months ago have adopted higher speeds, and nearly a quarter of the users who subscribed to speeds between 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps have upgraded to faster speed tiers.
In what may come as a surprise to many consumers, the FCC also found that "significant improvements" have been made to satellite broadband technology service quality.
For the first time, the report includes results on satellite technology based on test results from ViaSat, a major satellite services provider.
"Although satellite technology has the highest overall latency, test results indicate that during peak periods, 90 percent of satellite consumers received 140 percent or better of the advertised speed of 12 Mbps," the report said, adding that there was "very little difference" between peak and non-peak performance.
ViaSat and HughesNet have both launched new satellites, which they say should provide vastly better service than their earlier models, a claim that's supported by the FCC's findings.
The "latency" that the FCC report referred to is the time it takes a signal to travel from earth to the satellite and back again. This creates a noticeable lag that often causes consumers to see the service as "slow" when in fact the data transfer rate is usually on par with advertised speeds, as the FCC report confirmed.
Until someone figures out how to increase the speed of light, the satellite lag is here to stay and is not the fault of the service provider.
To read the complete February 2013 "Measuring Broadband America" report, see www.fcc.gov/measuring-broadband-america.