An FCC Report Says U.S. Internet Should Be Awesome and Reliable, but Don't Get Excited

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 19 2014 3:33 PM

An FCC Report Says U.S. Internet Should Be Awesome and Reliable, but Don't Get Excited

A weirdly upbeat graph.

Graph from Measuring Broadband America.

There's been a lot of talk about Internet speeds in the United States. Are they fast enough? Are they slower than the rest of the developed world? Is it an infrastructure issue? Are ISPs greedily hoarding speedy goodness? If only there were an initiative to consistently and objectively collect data about the speeds real American consumers receive in their homes. Oh, there's the FCC's Measuring Broadband America report? Yeah, that sounds good, let's use that.

The FCC has been gathering data on the speeds customers are paying for versus what they actually receive since 2011. And according to the agency's findings, ISPs are holding up their collective side of the bargain really well.

ISPs now provide 101 percent of advertised speeds. ... On average, during peak periods DSL-based services delivered download speeds that were 91 percent of advertised speeds, cable-based services delivered 102 percent of advertised speeds, fiber-to-the-home services delivered 113 percent of advertised speeds, and satellite delivered 138 percent of advertised speeds.  These results suggest that many ISPs are meeting established engineering goals for their respective technologies.

There's something weird about this, though. I don't know about you all, but I for one have never gotten the download or upload speeds promised to me by either provider I've used (Time Warner and Comcast). In fact, I've always had to over-buy just to get close to what I want. That's anecdotal, of course, but you've probably experienced the same thing. And if it's not true and ISPs are doing great, why is everyone talking about slow Internet?

And why did former FCC commissioner Michael Copps give an impassioned speech Wednesday at the Library of Congress about how dreadful  U.S. broadband is? “We have fallen so far short that we should be ashamed of ourselves,” he said, according to the Consumerist. “We should be leading, and we’re not. We need to get serious about broadband, we need to get serious about competition, we need to get serious about our country.”

Apparently the FCC is going to release separate data about node congestion on ISP networks, which should clarify this current report. The agency also makes some distinctions in this report between speeds the ISPs achieve and speeds they achieve consistently, and it has already said that it will look into how deals like the Netflix-Comcast agreement are impacting the service consumers receive. Getting 102 percent of advertised speed for cable Internet sounds great, but it's not what's up.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.