Think your Internet connection is fast? Don't count on it!

The Federal Communications Commission says the gap between advertised Internet download speeds and actual performance is so wide that we need a new, standardized way of presenting promised broadband speeds.

Most Internet users have long been aware that the actual download speeds they get from their Internet connections are somewhat slower than advertised. Those "up to" speeds promised by Internet service providers are sort of like speed limit signs during rush hour – theoretically possible, we suppose, although not likely in the real world.

But you probably have no idea just how big the difference can be. An extensive report on broadband performance – one of a series of reports by the Federal Communications Commission's Omnibus Broadband Initiative – includes a study showing that actual download speeds for U.S. consumers are about half the advertised "up to" speed. 

Using metrics from Akamai and comScore, the report states that the average advertised maximum, or “up to,” download speed in 2009 was about 6.7 megabits/sec. FCC’s analysis, however, showed that the “median actual speed” was roughly 3 megabits/sec, and the “average (mean) actual speed” was about 4 megabits/sec.

The averages include all forms of broadband connections. Actual average speed per technology:

  • Fiber: 7.7 megabits/sec.
  • Cable: 5.5 megabits/sec.
  • DSL: 2.0 megabits/sec.
  • Fixed wireless and satellite: 0.7 megabits/sec.

A lot of factors besides an Internet connection go into actual performance, including the performance of routers, end-users’ computers, Web sites and applications, all of which can slow down transmissions, and none of which is under the control of an ISP, the report notes. And it’s not that performance for the average broadband user is bad – in fact, the National Broadband Plan sets the target for broadband users at 4 megabits/sec for downloads and 1 megabit/sec for uploads.


Related stories:

FCC wants faster Internet for government buildings

In the broadband Olympics, US is not in the running


Nevertheless, the advertised speed of a connection is all consumers have to go on when comparing the speeds of competing providers. And the bottom line is that subscribers are not getting anything close to what they’re told they would – or could – get.

“Consumers need a better, publicly agreed-upon measure of broadband performance that reflects the network operation and end-user experience,” the report states.

The report supports the creation of a standardized method of advertising broadband speeds, such as the recommendation by National Broadband Plan earlier this year, which would include:

  • Actual speeds and performance over the broadband service provider’s network and end-to-end points of the connection.
  • Actual speeds and performance at peak-use hours.
  • Actual speeds and performance achieved with a given probability (such as 95 percent) over a set time period (such as one hour) that includes peak usage times.
  • Actual speeds and performance tested against a given set of standard protocols and applications.

Under NBP’s recommendation, FCC, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, industry, consumer groups, and technical experts would work together to develop the standard for broadband measurement.

Meanwhile, subscribers should take promised speeds with a grain of salt, expect them to be slower than advertised, and do whatever they can on their end to increase performance as much as possible.

Test your broadband speed here.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.