FCC broadband report offers fodder for net neutrality discussions

Study also finds qualified "adequate support" for VoIP services.

A recent FCC study may have taken some wind out of the sails for those who suggest that ISPs are not living up to performance promises. In its fourth such annual report, "Measuring Broadband America-2014," the FCC has found that, on average, ISPs now provide 101% of advertised download speeds.

Not surprisingly, advertised performance differed by the technology used: DSL-based downloads services delivered 91% of advertised speeds, while cable-based services delivered 102%, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services clocked in at 113%, and satellite performed at 138% of advertised speeds. Upload speeds followed a similar technology-dependent trend: satellite services delivered 138%, FTTH delivered 114%, cable provided 111%, and DSL-based services underperformed with 98% of advertised upload speeds. 

The study also measured other factors, including latency, performance during peak periods and bursts, and sustained speeds. When it came to offering sufficient network performance for VoIP, the FCC found that services were adequately supported by all of the service tiers. However, the report also noted that the latency inherent in satellite-based connections was a concern, also observing that VoIP quality may suffer during times when household bandwidth is shared by other services. 

The research also found that watching video over the Internet can consume as much as 1-2.8 GB/hour--so users may quickly reach their allocated data caps or find themselves paying more than expected for metered data plans. 

Our observations: this report could be used to thwart Netflix's criticism of ISPs, as it appears that users are getting what they pay for from their service providers. More importantly, it could also be used as input to the FCC's upcoming decisions on net neutrality policies. Some net neutrality advocates have already lined up suggesting that the FCC report highlights ISP shortcomings (i.e. DSL performance, speed consistency). Other stakeholders point to the report as evidence that the FCC should keep a "hands-off" approach since providers are delivering what they promise. We think it is just another log on an already roaring fire in both camps.   

To review the full FCC report, "Measuring Broadband America -- 2014," please click here.

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