Residential broadband customers are more likely now to be getting the advertised speeds from their Internet service provider than they were last year, according to a new report from the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC study of more than 5,500 users conducted in April showed that residential subscribers are switching to higher-speed broadband services, and using more data as they do so. The more speed that is available to a user, the more data will be consumed. The report concludes that, "consumers appear to take advantage of faster speeds not simply to do what they would otherwise do faster, but to do more with their Internet connection."
On average, ISPs are delivering 96 percent of advertised download speed during peak hours - weeknights between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. This is the time when demand for high-bandwidth services such as Neflix typically peaks.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski touted the results of the report, saying, "Bandwidth abundance is essential to driving innovation and unleashing the benefits of broadband, including increased education, healthcare, and job-creation opportunities across the country."
However, subscribers on the low end of the broadband speed spectrum are finding that their ISPs are still struggling to deliver relatively glacial speeds (1 to 3 megabits per second) on a consistent basis during peak demand hours. Frontier's 3 Mbps service delivers on promised speeds below 80 percent of the time, according to the report. Windstream does about as well with its 1.5 Mbps offering. Just two providers hit the 100 percent mark in this lower tier of service.
As advertised speeds go up, service improves, the report found. In the 12 Mbps-15Mbps range, 10 of the 13 tested providers are closing in on 100 percent delivery of advertised download speeds. All four providers of very high speed 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps service were closing in on or exceeding 100 percent of advertised speeds.
Cablevision got a nod as the most-improved service. In the 2011 report they delivered just 54 percent of advertised download speed, but they were able to boost that to 120 percent. Windstream and Frontier showed small declines from 2011.
DSL services ranked lowest for delivery of advertised speeds at 84 percent, up from 82 percent from the 2011 study. Cable hit the mark with 99 percent of advertised speeds up from 93 percent last year. Fiber-to-the-home services such as Verizon FiOS blew past all rivals, consistently exceeding advertised speeds during peak periods.
The success rates hold up for latency, which measures the time it takes for data to move between points on a network. High latency times, typically measured in milliseconds, can cause hiccups in video streams or voice transmissions. Fiber scored best in this category, followed by cable and DSL. Overall, however, latency rates did not improve. The report suggests that, "the primary causes of latency are intrinsic to the service architecture and not amenable to significant improvement."
ISPs showed dramatic increases in meeting upload speeds. On average they supplied at least 95 percent of advertised speed, up from 84 percent in 2011. Interestingly, the report found, "little evidence of congestion" for uploads, with a very small variation in upload performance over the course of the day.