Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the U.S. are doing a better job of providing advertised speeds for their broadband services, according to a new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The study involved actual performance tests for thousands of subscribers in over 80 percent of the residential market. The FCC said it found a marked improvement in performance between the first report, completed in August 2011, and this latest one, completed in April 2012.
"First, accurate delivery of advertised performance by ISPs has improved overall," the report said. "Five ISPs now routinely deliver nearly one hundred percent or greater of the speed advertised to the consumer even during time periods when bandwidth demand is at its peak."
Improvement since August
That's a big improvement from the August 2011 report, when only two ISPs met that level of performance. In 2011, the average ISP delivered 87 percent of advertised download speed during peak usage periods.
In 2012, that jumped to 96 percent. In other words, consumers today are experiencing performance more closely aligned with what is advertised than they experienced one year ago.
Consumers posting reviews at ConsumerAffairs still complain about speeds, however, even if complaints about billing and customer service are more numerous. Edward, of Corryton, TN, wrote recently to express is frustration with Comcast.
"I am paying every single month for 12 megabytes per second (Mbps) download and 3Mbps upload," Edward wrote. "Yet, when doing several speed tests for Comcast Xfinity, my download speed ranged from 0.40Mbps to 1.81Mbps download and 0.58Mbps to 0.76Mbps upload. When I called and asked Comcast why it was so slow, the customer service lady said I could pay another $10 a month to upgrade to 12Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. I told her I was not even getting what I was paying for now, so why would I want to pay them more money for something I'm not even getting now?"
The FCC report authors suggest when it comes to Comcast customers, Edward may be an exception. The report found that Comcast is now providing 103 percent of its advertised speeds.
The report found that providers delivering service with fiber optics had the best record of hitting advertised download speeds. They were over-performing at a rate of 117 percent.
Room for improvement
But not all ISPs are showing improvement. Frontier and Windstream showed declines since August, with Frontier performing the worst. Clayton, of West Alexandria, Ohio, a Frontier business customer, said he finds the service very uneven.
"First, their high-speed business Internet slows down to a complete halt, and if it doesn't slow down to a halt, it is extremely slow, around.02 mbps," Clayton wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. "This throws everything off at our business location. We can get a little over 2.5mbps when it works as it should."
The report suggests that ISPs were motivated to improve performance by the first study, when the FCC publicized which providers were hitting their numbers and which were not. And the agency says the improvements appear to be real.
"Our analysis shows that the improvements of ISPs in meeting their advertised speeds were largely driven by improvements in network performance, and not downward adjustments to the speed tiers offered," the authors wrote.