Does Your ISP Lie About Your Bandwidth? New FCC Test Determines the Truth

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Everyone has come across it at one point or another: you sign up with your local ISP for Internet access,  excitedly wait until the installer leaves, and then visit your favorite site on the net. The experience always leaves some measure of disappointment – all too often the speeds don’t measure up. 

In a recent report issued by the FCC, however, the U.S. Government revealed that it too was looking into the matter, and you might be surprised to find out the results. As it turns out, all but two of the major internet service providers (ISPs) managed to maintain a 90% or greater percentage of their rated speeds most of the time. 

FCC Broadband test

The two that failed? AT&T, which hovered around 80% for both 24hr and peak download times, and Cablevision, which couldn’t make it even to 80%; in fact, under peak times, its customers received only half of the bandwidth they were promised. It’s generally understood that there is some degree of overhead in each of the standards – if you can hit 90% of your speed all of the time, then your ISP is doing a pretty bang-up job of maintaining your service.  

Fifty percent, as in Cablevision’s dire situation, indicates more serious issues, such as overselling (the practice of an ISP to sell more access than it can actually handle under the assumption that its customers will never all use the network at the same time). 

Fortunately, most ISPs did quite a good job, as mentioned earlier. The FCC charted results by dividing the actual test download speeds by the rated download speeds and multiplying by 100%. That gives 100% as the baseline speed, and four companies exceeded this – Comcast, Charter, Verizon (FIOS) and Cox. Only one managed to exceed that number on both peak and off-peak times, and that’s Verizon’s FIOS service. Comcast, at least, was found to deliver its rated speeds at all times, if not exceed them.

The test took into account major Cable and DSL ISPs, but didn’t cover mobile broadband (AT&T provides DSL, and Verizon provides both DSL and fiber services). If anything, it shows that companies may not be quite the scumbugs people rate them as – at least in terms of delivering promised speeds.



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