Broadband Internet services are usually at least 80 to 90 percent of advertised speeds, the Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday.
Despite the rosier findings, the report is unlikely to put to rest lingering disputes after a 2009 survey suggested that actual speeds were about half of what Internet service providers advertised.
“We found that most major ISPs are providing service close to what they’re advertising,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at an event to unveil the findings at a Columbia Heights Best Buy store.
“This represents a significant improvement over the findings from two years ago, when we first shone a light on this issue.”
The report, conducted by an independent company called SamKnows, gave a mixed bag of results. During peak periods, Verizon Fios performed 14 percent better than its advertised speeds, while Cablevision averaged only 54 percent of what it promised.
The report included 13 major ISPs but did not examine wireless broadband services.
Verizon's vice president for regulatory relations, Kathleen Grillo, praised the study as a “snapshot” of a competitive broadband marketplace. A Cablevision spokesman, on the other hand, dismissed the findings and said the report “simply does not reflect the experience of our nearly 3 million broadband customers.”
The study also faced a range of interpretations from industry and consumer groups.
Richard Bennett, a senior fellow at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said the study “dispels the myth” that a significant gap exists between actual speeds and what companies advertise.
“That 80 to 90 percent during peak times is likely as good as it gets,” he said after Tuesday’s event. “This study overcame the shortcomings of the 2009 study.”
In this latest study, researchers installed devices in Internet users’ homes to accurately track speeds. In contrast, the 2009 study largely relied on estimates. With the devices installed, the FCC can continue to release updated data, an agency spokesman said.
But the numbers were not good enough for the media reform group Free Press. The group’s research director, Derek Turner, argued that although some providers are delivering on their promises, others are falling short.
"The fact that providers using the same technology turned in very different performances indicates that delivering promised speeds can be done, but some ISPs are simply failing to properly maintain and provision their networks,” he said in a statement. “It’s completely inexcusable that millions upon millions of Americans are paying for something they're not receiving.”
Consumer Union Policy Counsel Parul Desai called the study a good first step, and she called on the FCC to take the next step in its Truth in Billing proceeding by requiring ISPs to provide consumers more information about their broadband speeds.