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FCC: Average US broadband speed rising

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released the results of its ongoing nationwide performance study of consumers’ fixed broadband Internet access service in its sixth Measuring Broadband America report. The report furthers the Commission’s efforts to provide greater transparency about network performance to help consumers make more informed choices about their Internet Service Provider.

This year’s report shows that broadband speed offerings to the average consumer continue to increase at a rapid pace, and broadband service providers generally are delivering actual speeds that meet or exceed advertised speeds. However, results are not uniform across technologies. The report finds a growing disparity in advertised download speeds between many DSL-based broadband services and most cable- and fiber-based broadband services. Average DSL speeds have increased only slightly over the past five years and satellite speeds, over a shorter time interval, have remained constant.

This year’s report highlights the following findings:

  • Significant growth in advertised broadband speeds available to consumers, though the results are not uniform across technologies. The median download speed, averaged across all participating ISPs, has almost quadrupled, from approximately 10 Mbps in March 2011, to approximately 39 Mbps in September 2015.  Compared to last year’s value of 32 Mbps, this year’s median download speed was an increase of approximately 22 per cent. We find that, over the course of our reports, the average annual increase in median download speeds by technology 47 per cent for cable, and 14 per cent for fibre, while popular DSL speeds have remained largely the same.   The maximum advertised download speed among the most popular service tiers using cable technologies, increased from 20-30 Mpbs in March 2011 to 100-300 Mpbs in September 2015.
  • Actual speeds experienced by most consumers meet or exceed advertised speeds. All ISPs using cable, fibre or satellite technologies advertise speeds for services that on average are close to the actual speeds experienced by their subscribers. Fixed cable and fiber broadband customers experienced speeds that were 100 per cent or better than advertised. However, the actual speeds experienced by subscribers of some ISPs satellite technologies were lower on average than the advertised “up-to” speeds for their respective providers. This is likely the result of increased subscribership and consumer usage of these services. Future proposed launches of more advanced satellites would likely reverse this trend.
  • Consumers with access to faster services continue to migrate to higher service tiers. Data shows that panelists subscribed in September 2014 to service tiers with advertised download speeds between 15 Mbps to 50 Mbps are the most likely to have migrated towards higher service tiers. In contrast, among panelists subscribed in September 2014 to service tiers with advertised download speeds of less than 15 Mbps – offered mostly by DSL services – only a few per cent migrated within the following year to a service tier with a higher download speed.
  • Latency and packet loss vary by technologies. Consumers generally experienced low latency – the time it takes for a data packet to travel from one point to another in a network – on DSL, cable and fibre systems. Higher latency in satellite services may affect the perceived quality of highly interactive applications such as VoIP calls, video chat and multiplayer games. Consumers generally experienced low packet loss – the percentage of packets that are sent by the source but not received by the destination – on cable, satellite and fibre systems. Moderate packet loss experienced by a few DSL providers may affect the perceived quality of video chat, multiplayer games and video streaming.

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