Ever wonder why your home Internet isn't always as fast as it should be?

The FCC says most providers hit their advertised speeds—just not all the time

Published: June 19, 2014 01:15 PM

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Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission released the latest results from its Measuring Broadband America report, an ongoing study that measures download and upload speeds provided to U.S. subscribers by home broadband providers. Essentially, the report confirms that ISPs hit their advertised speeds on average, although some small providers are not consistently providing those speeds.

In a press release the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler said: “Consumers deserve to get what they pay for. While it’s encouraging to see that in the past these reports have encouraged providers to improve their services, I’m concerned that some providers are failing to deliver consistent speeds to consumers that are commensurate to their advertised speeds.” Wheeler is directing FCC staff to reach out to those providers to find out why they are inconsistent and how they plan to resolve that.

What the report doesn’t address is that these “advertised speeds” are a pretty low bar to hit. U.S. consumers are paying more money for less speed than much of the connected world.

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A broadband tester, Ookla, ranks the U.S. 30th in the world for average download speeds, at 28.72 mbps—compared, for example, to the top-scoring Hong Kong at 81.49 mbps. And the New American Foundation reported that “in comparison to their international peers, Americans in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., are paying higher prices for slower Internet service.”

There are some hopeful signs in the U.S. broadband universe, though. One is community broadband, in which municipal governments provide telecommunications capability and service to local residents. Wheeler has expressed support for those types of networks.

Another bright spot is Google Fiber, which promises faster, cheaper broadband than the major providers. It's not available widely yet (Kansas City, Mo., Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, for now), but the company is planning to expand to more cities soon.

—Carol Mangis

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