FCC: U.S. Broadband Speeds Up 22%

The FCC has released the results of its ongoing nationwide performance study of consumers' fixed broadband Internet access service in its ...

The FCC has revamped its rules for the Connect America Fund and its E-rate program.
The FCC has revamped its rules for the Connect America Fund and its E-rate program.

The 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. Median downstream speeds are up 22% from last year and nearly 400% from 2011, the report says.

This year's report indicates 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, as in previous years, results are not uniform across technologies. The report indicates a growing disparity in advertised downstream 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.

Among the findings:

  • Significant growth in advertised broadband speeds available to consumers, though the results are not uniform across technologies. The median downstream 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 downstream speed was an increase of approximately 22%. Over the course of the reports, the average annual increase in median downstream speeds by technology 47% for cable and 14% for fiber, while DSL speeds have remained largely the same. The maximum advertised downstream 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, fiber 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% 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 indicates that panelists subscribed in September 2014 to service tiers with advertised downstream speeds between 15 Mbps to 50 Mbps are the most likely to have migrated toward higher service tiers. In contrast, among panelists subscribed in September 2014 to service tiers with advertised downstream speeds of less than 15 Mbps - offered mostly by DSL services - only a few percent migrated within the following year to a service tier with a higher downstream 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 fiber systems. Higher latency in satellite services may affect the perceived quality of 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 fiber 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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