ISPs living up to advertised speeds

The Federal Communications Commission’s recently released report on consumer wireline broadband performance has found the majority of Internet service providers (ISPs) are delivering speeds as advertised during peak consumer usage hours.

The February report — part of the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America initiative, with data collected last September — found that 97 per cent of ISPs were coming through with promised speeds during the busiest hours of 7-11 p.m. on weekdays. Most providers remained steady, with results on par with the previous FCC study. One standout was Frontier, which improved performance by a significant 13 per cent. The FCC was also encouraged to see providers have sustained their migration to higher speed services.

Some providers were even found to be providing service faster than they claimed, with Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon Fiber and ViaSat/Exede demonstrating sustained download and upload ratios higher than what was advertised. On the flip side, AT&T, Qwest and Windstream struggled to reach their own numbers. ViaSat’s satellite provided the fastest speeds, followed by fiber, cable and DSL. On average, satellite performed at 137 per cent of advertised speeds, while fiber delivered at 115 per cent, cable at 99 per cent and DSL at 85 per cent, during peak times.

“In our testing, we found that during peak periods 90 per cent of ViaSat consumers received 140 per cent or better of the advertised speed of 12 Mbps,” stated the FCC summary. “In addition, both peak and non-peak performance was significantly higher than advertised rates. While latency for satellites necessarily remains much higher than for terrestrial services, with the improvements afforded by the new technology we find that it will support many types of popular broadband services and applications.”

While satellite was the top performer, what the FCC doesn’t point out — but the Huffington Post does, in this article — is that the service comes with caps that limit data consumption and video streaming. The news outlet has previously reported complaints by rural residents who said bad weather and caps interfered with their speed and service.

When it comes to VoIP, the FCC found quality suffered when bandwidth was being shared amongst various services, though measurements utilized in the report did not detect such effects. VoIP services were adequately support by all service tiers examined.

“Faster broadband has brought untold benefits to millions of Americans – from distance learning to distance healthcare,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. “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.”

The FCC is pushing a proposition for national high-speed one gigabit Internet, something it would like to see achieved by 2015. Genachowski has said the service is essential to facilitate economic growth and global competitiveness.

So how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth from your ISP? Lifehacker.com‘s Thorin Klosowski offers up a good basic guide for consumers , starting with examining your bill to determine the service level you’re paying for and using simple online analytics to test your speed.

If you feel you’re not getting enough out of your service, sometimes it pays to shop around. But keep in mind that depending on where you live, all services may not be readily available. Providers also sometimes offer different bundles based on geographic location. And if you’re content with your home service, but need someone to take a look at options for your business, sometimes it’s best to seek help from a professional consultant to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your online buck.