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Summary:

When it comes to speeds Cablevision and Verizon FiOS are the most likely to deliver better than advertised download speeds while any provider offering DSL — AT&T, Frontier, Windstream and CenturyLink– struggle to deliver on their promises. A new FCC report looks at how well ISPs perform.

Speedometer

Cablevision and Verizon FiOS are the most likely to deliver better than advertised download speeds, while any provider offering DSL — AT&T, Frontier, Windstream and CenturyLink– struggle to deliver on their promises. Such information is hard to come by from ISPs, which aren’t exactly forthcoming about their actual versus advertised speed, but it’s vitally important to consumers who may not be getting the service they are paying for or are wondering why their Netflix streams stutter all the time.

Thankfully, the Federal Communication Commission started collecting data to help consumers (and the agency) see if consumers get what they pay for when it comes to broadband. And for the most part, they do. The accuracy of an ISP’s advertised speeds are just one measurement of broadband quality offered in the FCC’s latest report. So check out the charts below to see how your ISP fares.

The FCC uses a variety of tests to get this information, including sending out routers to households that report back speed and packet quality information (I’m one of the test homes). It first reported this data last August as part of an effort to improve the type and quality of data it had about U.S. broadband providers. The most recent report, released Thursday, involves a lot of FCC chest-thumping about how its measurements have improved service to consumers over the last year.

But here’s what really matters to consumers. How good is your provider? In general, fiber-to-the-home services such as Verizon FiOS performed closest to or above advertised speeds and had the lowest latency, followed by cable and then DSL providers. Latency is a measure of how long a packet takes to traverse the network, and it matters for services such as voice calling over IP lines, gaming and video streaming.

Here are providers with the best peak and average download speeds.

Note that in the above chart the peak and average speeds are fairly closely aligned. This means that network congestion at peak times isn’t really causing a problem for consumers when it comes to speed.

Here’s how those same providers fare on peak and average upload speeds.

The report also takes a look at data consumption and when people consume it. Generally during the 8-10PM block is when the FCC saw providers fall below their advertised speeds, presumably as their networks became more congested. Some ISPs have more even speeds than others, indicating that they may have less reliable ways of handling congestion.

The report has plenty of great information, such as the quality of service broken down by speed tiers as well as a chart indicating that as you give people faster speeds they tend to consume more data. That may be obvious, but it’s always nice to have numbers that can back this information up. And it’s even nicer to see areas such as advertised speed improve over the previous year when the FCC began collecting the data. Shining light on broadband performance does improve it.

Speedometer photo provided by Nathan E Photography.

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  1. Google’s Stacey Higginbotham touts the results produced by Google’s M-Labs, whose purpose is to produce test results that favor Google’s corporate agendas.

  2. The reports are generated by the FCC.

    Who do you work for?

  3. How about a chart with showing simply Actual Speed?

    1. Because you can order different tiers of speed. Showing the tiers from all providers would make one messy chart.

  4. Too bad many of us don’t have a wider range of choices.

  5. On that last chart, shouldn’t the midnight on the left match up with the midnight on the right? What am I missing?

  6. These are terrible plots of these data. Someone should download the data and replot it all as a community service.

  7. Wish they would break out Frontier into DSL and Fiber. In the northwest, Frontier bought FIOS from Verizon.

    1. Stacey Higginbotham Jeff Martens Friday, July 20, 2012

      the report does break out services by each speed tier. So if you click over you can see more. I thought 20-odd charts would be a bit overwhelming, though :)

  8. What about Starpower, what we have in Northwest DC? Also, in the Nation’s Capital, we can’t even get Fios. I keep checking for it and it’s not available.

  9. I’d like to see a report like this for those of us using cellular modems.

  10. I read Google’s Stacey Higginbotham of Austin TX’s articles with a grain of salt. Especially when she writes things like “Since consumption-based billing of broadband is inevitable” (to paraphrase).

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