DSL Users Still Can't Get Advertised Speeds They Pay For, Nation's Telcos Couldn't Care Less

from the underwhelming-you-is-our-forte dept

Every year the FCC is mandated by Congress to release a report detailing the status of the U.S. broadband industry. The good news? This year’s edition of the creatively-named “Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report” (pdf) notes that speeds have by and large tripled since 2011. The bad news? That’s really only for those who have cable broadband (where DOCSIS upgrades are relatively inexpensive) and the few people living in an area getting wired with fiber to the home. If you’re a phone company customer with a DSL connection, unfortunately, many of you are still lucky to get 12 Mbps downstream:

” Largely spurred by the deployment of enabling technologies such as DOCSIS 3, the maximum advertised download speeds offered by ISPs using cable systems increased from 12-20 Mbps in March 2011 to 50-105 Mbps in September 2014. However, popular maximum DSL speed offerings have not kept up with that growth. While average DSL consumer speeds have increased, popular maximum DSL speed offerings have stayed largely stagnant since 2011, with most DSL providers offering maximum download rates of 12 Mbps or less.”

And that 12 Mbps mark is rather generous. There are tens of millions of DSL customers who are lucky to nab 3 Mbps downstream on a good day, thanks to phone companies that face no serious competitive incentive to upgrade. Worse, some of these companies (like AT&T and Verizon) are actively trying to drive these unwanted customers away with apathy and price hikes so they can focus on more-profitable wireless. Others, (like Frontier, Windstream and CenturyLink) are buying these aging assets up, but wind up being so saddled with debt meaningful upgrades aren’t possible (assuming they had competitive incentive to do so).

For a few years now the FCC has taken to naming and shaming ISPs that fail to deliver advertised speeds as part of the report. And for a while, it paid dividends. Cable companies singled out in the report one year for poor performance (like Cablevision) would return the next having notably upgraded provisioned speeds for fear of bad PR. Even notoriously awful satellite providers, motivated by 4G wireless, have been improving things with new Ka-band deployments. But proudly, consistently, the nation’s DSL providers continue to under-deliver in terms of both overall speed…

…and also how close they get to their advertised speeds:
And this won’t be changing any time soon. With no competition to speak of, most of these telcos intend to cherry pick only the most profitable areas over the next decade (housing developments, university dorms), then pretend these deployments are much broader than they actually are (aka “fiber to the press release“). Simultaneously, most of these underperforming telcos (CenturyLink & AT&T especially) have been busy lobbying, buying and quite-literally writing state laws preventing towns and cities from upgrading their own broadband, or from getting outside help in the form of public/private partnerships.

The result (despite a lot of hype surrounding gigabit deployments) is a huge swath of the country that will likely be stuck on last-generation DSL for the better part of the next decade. And while a lack of real broadband competition is the obvious culprit, these same companies will be sure to blame everything from net neutrality to rogue yeti for their miserable failure to provide even the barest semblance of mediocre service.

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Companies: at&t, centurylink, frontier, verizon, windstream

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Comments on “DSL Users Still Can't Get Advertised Speeds They Pay For, Nation's Telcos Couldn't Care Less”

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29 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Government Regulation

The FTC argument is non-sequitur for this argument just as you said.

What I am saying that the FCC being the way that is is, is pretty much State Sanctioning these little monopoly cut-outs. Are they TRUE monopolies according to the SEC definition, maybe maybe not, but it is clear the that FCC has absolutely created this problem.

I don’t disagree with sensible regulation, but regulation that mettles with the free market is bad, which is typically the type of regulation that most people are wanting!

The day I ever see anyone asking for regulation that also asks for the correct one is probably the day we all die because the world is going to be fucking unbelievably shocked!

There is just no END to the number sheeple stupidly asking for regulation after regulation from agencies PROVING beyond the shadow of any doubt that they will only create regulation that benefits the very people they are to be regulating! But they sure will decorate that regulation in such a way that it appears to be good.

That is just how stupid everyone is on it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Government Regulation

Not OP, but I’ll throw in 2 cents.

I don’t think it matters if there’s no regulation or if there’s tons of regulation. This half-ass regulation is worse than both. If there were no regulation, there would be more competition so it would be better. If they were forced into competition, or forced to act as if they had competition at the very least, it would be better.

The truth, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t matter which way the pendulum swings. It just needs to get moving.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Government Regulation

Agree, but its hard to get a lot of people to see these things.

A bad law is worse than no law.
“Doing something is better that nothing…” is the logic of a fool!
Bad Metrics are worse than NO metrics.
NO Government is better than a CORRUPT ONE!
Bad Regulation is worse than NO regulation.
Setting up an agency that does not face sunset every 4 years will become corrupt easier and faster!

zerosaves (profile) says:

Re: Re: Yes, It Was Bad

That’s me. We pay for “3MB” DSL with Centurylink in central Florida, best can hope for is a 350 kbps on a good day. $45 with a year contract, otherwise its $65

And its the highest speed offered. There is no cable, we live 5 miles out of their “area” and our county has no other cable provider than Comcast who is not planning on expanding internet offering.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Yes, It Was Bad

I’ve got CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) DSL. It’s been 1.5 Mbps for the last 10 years now, which I do pretty good on, getting maybe 1 Mbps most of the time. When CenturyLink bought Qwest about 4 years ago, they worked that summer around town telling people they were upgrading “everyone” to 5 Mbps. They only worked that one summer, and most of the town is still 1.5 Mbps, including me. 🙁

I guess I should be happy that I at least get close to what they advertise and it’s not as bad as zero or Carlie. Sure don’t feel happy…

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: EU! EU! EU!

That. The US is not alone in this field. We have the coastal area here in São Paulo incredibly badly served in terms of connectivity, including mobile ones. I see a huge market that can be grabbed and a lot of very easy money if done right. You know, the population more than quadruples during the touristic periods.

But hey, why invest when you can make money by doing nothing?

Wickedsmack (profile) says:

I am in the wrong business

I really feel like there is an opportunity here. I have always felt that if a company came along that actually cared about the quality of the connection folks are getting, offering cosumers the bandwidth to handle their streaming services and connected devices at a reasonable price now is the time to do that. Instead of focusing on profit for the first few years and funneling revenue into good infrastructure in a methodical manner, it would most certainly change the landscape of how business is done. Of course I could most certainly be a naive idiot who thinks the internet is something everybody should be able to afford access to. It just irritates me to no end that its ok for services to be so horribly delivered and how much they cost to be merely mediocre.

Anonymous Coward says:

Earthlink had excellent support, but they didn’t keep up with expanding broadband for various reasons. My very small hometown was one of Earthlink’s notably early adopters of cable Internet service and it was excellent, but short story short, that’s now Atlantic Broadband which sucks. Longer story longer, simultaneously the bought out Onemain shell co. and dailup service went to Hell apparently forcing them to refocus and reduce coverage, or something. I’ve always been curious about the whole story as a former employee.

Anonymous Coward says:

Old Neighborhood Getting Updated

The FCC internet speed mandate is working wonders for me. My ISP, Sonic, is offering ATT bonded adsl lines or U-Verse for the same price as my old 6M/768K line. Since I am 8500 feet from the CO and the U-Verse box is one block away, I choose U-Verse at 24M/2M @$60mon including mandatory phone.

Google is building a giga shack two blocks away. The choices are abundant now. The giga line is going to be $70.

Alan says:

Now what?

I’m not seeing or reading that anything can be done about the issue, which is the most infuriating part. I can only get DSL (Century Link) and I consistently get half of the speed I technically pay for (6 Mbps instead of 12) at a price that is 3 times ($60) what they advertise on TV for their 40 Mbps service. When you call to report the issue or complain, you’re told you’re getting what you are supposed to, that it is normal due to xyz reasons (lies) which are meant to appease the technologically clueless people (majority). Unbelievable. Meanwhile, it’s ‘legal’ and business as usual.

J.Chris (profile) says:

From 300bps in the 70's to... what is going on?!!?!

I as many of you have worked with the "baby bells", remember when 2400bps was as lightning? Sure, just text. 9600bps, and one could dl pics, university data, etc. (Sometimes I am even nostalgic for the era.)

LONG time user the the ATT/Bells/ATT, I guess I was considered a ‘very good’ customer, or that was the speal, soon after I started with 6mbps. I could stream well via Wi-Fi to Netflex/Hulu when after a time a minimal increase selected 24mbps @ $60. No noticeable improvement.

Six months later I was reviewing my bill when a remarkable deal was offered: 50mbps d/l ($40, no taxes/fees) for less than the 24, and only slightly higher than the original 6! I inquired, and "Oh, yes, you are just such a wonderful long time customer…

I fell for it. Soon, streaming to my TV was not possible, being so below buffering the streaming services would simply give up! For the "heck" of it, I ran a CAT5 to the TV, and now it streams at the original 6mbps.

No more than I really stream video, I’m thinking I may be able to cast from phone/tablet for less.

BTW: ATT U-Verse DSL is now "ATT High Speed." Go figure…

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