service is only half as fast as advertised, according to an FCC
report released this week. It is already bad enough that the U.S. trails a significant number of countries in terms of broadband speed, despite having invented the Internet.
It is possibly because ISPs offer speeds of "up to" X Mbps that this difference exists. In terms of those "up to" claims, the FCC report said that ISPs advertised an average of "up to" 6.7 Mbps (download) in 2009. What consumers received instead, however, was a lot less. The report said:
FCC analysis shows that average (mean) actual speed consumers received was approximately 4 Mbps, while the median actual speed was roughly 3 Mbps in 2009. Therefore actual download speeds experienced by U.S. consumers lag advertised speeds by roughly 50%.
The FCC used data from Akamai and comScore to estimate consumer broadband speeds.
The agency criticized the use of maximum possible "up to" speeds, which does not take into account network congestion, poorly performing customer PCs, or issues with wireless or wired routers.
For those concerned with broadband
caps, the FCC said that in 2009, the average broadband customer used more than 9 GB of data per month, while the median user consumed less than 2 GB. The large gap between mean and median is because of the fact that, as ISPs will tell you, a small percentage of users suck up the largest percentage of bandwidth. In fact, the FCC said:
The extreme difference between average and median data usage is principally due to a relatively small number of users who consume very large amounts of data each month – sometimes terabytes (a terabyte is 1,000 GB) per month. The most data-intensive 1% of residential consumers appear to account for roughly 25% of all traffic, the top 3% consume 40%, the top 10% consume 70%, and the top 20% of users consume 80% of all data.