“[C]able [broadband] technology has a daily 24-hour average speed of slightly over 100 percent of advertised rates . . . .”
While the above statement may sound like an ad for cable broadband services, it actually comes from the FCC’s most recent report analyzing performance of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISP) in America. Based on rigorous third-party testing, the Commission has again confirmed that consumers across the U.S. consistently are receiving faster and more robust cable broadband service.
As compared to the Commission’s 2011 report, cable operators showed strong improvement on a number of fronts. Every cable operator that participated in the testing delivered at least 92 percent of advertised download speeds during peak periods and three operators were at or above 100 percent. In contrast, DSL providers averaged 84 percent and not a single one was able to deliver more than 90 percent. So much for the “conventional wisdom” that cable broadband performance suffers during peak periods because the network is shared among many customers. The ability of cable operators to consistently deliver such strong performance is even more remarkable given the continual increases in speed tiers that operators are offering their customers and usage demands being placed upon broadband networks.
The Commission’s report includes a number of additional findings that demonstrate the strong performance of cable broadband services:
- On average, cable operators delivered 102.7 percent of advertised download speeds over the course of a 24-hour period, i.e., peak and non-peak hours;
- Cable operators delivered 110 percent of advertised upload speeds during peak periods;
- “PowerBoost” and other burst techniques deployed by some cable operators can more than double short-term download performance;
- Cable operators delivered 99 percent of advertised speeds during peak periods of usage.
The report represents a continuation of the successful collaboration between FCC staff, the FCC’s contractor (SamKnows), and broadband providers. Chairman Genachowski, and all the Commission staff that have been involved – particularly Walter Johnston of the Office of Engineering and Technology – deserve a great deal of credit for running a process that has enabled the parties to work through this complicated set of issues in an open, collaborative manner. As in other contexts, when the Commission opts for public-private collaboration over top-down government mandates it is able to produce extremely positive results for broadband consumers.
With two successful tests of wireline broadband providers under its belt, it may be time for the Commission to turn its attention elsewhere. For example, as described in a recent article in the Boston Globe, slow speeds on content provider websites often prevent consumers from receiving the full benefits of the “last mile” broadband access service they have purchased. Consequently, to obtain a fuller picture of the performance consumers are experiencing, the Commission may want to solicit the participation of popular content and application providers, such as Netflix and YouTube, in developing a voluntary testing regime for application providers.