Another Report Shows US Consumers Don't Get The Broadband Speeds They Pay For

from the false-advertising dept

Yet another report has shown that US consumers aren’t getting the broadband speeds they’re paying for.

Researchers from broadband deal portal AllConnect dug through FCC data on broadband speeds and found that about 45 million Americans aren’t getting the speeds that broadband providers are advertising. Fiber and cable broadband providers appeared to have the toughest time providing the speeds they advertise, with those subscribers getting around 55% of the speeds they were promised. Satellite and DSL providers generally offer crappy speeds, but at least, the report found, those speeds were delivered more consistently.

The firm noted that consumers just aren’t getting accurate data on what speed is available, or how much speed they’ll get. Something that’s kind of important during a pandemic in which broadband is key to education, employment, health care, human connection, and opportunity:

“Having dependable internet is crucial right now, and with so many options available, it is important to have information like this to help consumers make the right choice for their needs. Being able to compare various aspects of internet service like reliability and speed helps make those decisions a little easier,? Layton adds.”

Granted this has been a problem for the better part of this decade. And it’s another problem (much like patchy availability and high prices) federal regulators haven’t done enough to seriously address. Speed data ISPs provide to the FCC is notoriously unreliable, and the FCC historically doesn’t do enough to verify availability and speed claims. It only takes a few minutes perusing our $350 broadband availability map, which all but hallucinates competition and throughput, to realize there’s a chasm between what the US government and industry claims exists, and what actually exists.

Every year, the FCC is mandated by Congress to release a report detailing the status of the U.S. broadband industry. If broadband isn’t being deployed on a “timely basis,” the agency is supposed to, you know, do something about that. But every year, sometimes regardless of party, the agency, swaddled in dodgy data, pretends this isn’t a problem. Why? Because we’ve fused extremely politically powerful telecom monopolies to our government surveillance apparatus, and holding these companies accountable is bad for political careers.

Of course ISPs aren’t just engaged in false advertising when it comes to speeds. They also routinely use a bevy of misleading fees and surcharges to covertly jack up their advertised rates post sale — to the point where your advertised cable or broadband bill can be as much as 45% higher than advertised. And again, aside from the very occasional suggestion by regulators that ISPs could maybe do better or be more transparent, nobody much does anything about it. After all, who wants to risk losing Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Charter campaign contributions by doing the right thing?

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Comments on “Another Report Shows US Consumers Don't Get The Broadband Speeds They Pay For”

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14 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Make sense

DSL you’re getting a dedicated connection to the DSLAM.

With modern DSL infrastructure, that’s only a few hundred meters away. And then it’s shared like cable or passive optical networks. I’d say an equally important difference is that DSL is operating right against its limits, such that DSL providers just can’t make the absurd claims that cable companies do. DSL ISPs can claim 50 or 100 megabits, and through recent and heroic feats of engineering they’re able to barely pull that off over twisted-pair. And what problem could there be after that? What kind of incompetent company couldn’t then get such a minuscule flow onto their backbones? It’s especially easy if they’re only promising single-digit Mbps.

By contrast, DOCSIS started off around 42 Mbps and is up to 10 Gbps now (shared). They can promise any speed up to the full amount, and sometimes deliver it. Even if they refused to oversubscribe the local segments (they don’t have to put more than one user on each), that’s a lot of data—there’s going to be congestion somewhere.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Make sense

So what’s to stop the cable carriers from investing in enough channel capacity to actually deliver what they promise? They could just take some of that bail-out money and apply it where they told Congress/FCC they were gonna put it…. couldn’t they?

I don’t understand their rationale, but maybe that’s why I don’t get the big bucks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Make sense

Their rationale is simple enough; "The more we invest in the company the less money we can stuff our wallets with".

Also remember that there’s no competition. DSL mostly delivers what it promises, which is very little. Mobile carriers pretend to sell "real" connections, but with the caps and throttling, customers know better. So what people going to do? Build their own networks? (Oh shit, they’re really planning that? Good thing we bribed the lawmakers to make it illegal.)

EGF Tech Man (profile) says:

Re: Re: Make sense

Maybe the cable companies should move all their video to IPTV…Filling coax with 750MHz of continuous content where 690 MHz of it is not being watched on a cable segment limits the amount of bandwidth that can be used for IP…allow the full coax bandwidth be used for IP, and deliver TV service by multicast with well engineered IGMP and multicast routing.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have gigabit internet, and I never get gigabit speed. But here’s the thing, getting gigabit speed on a single connection with a single device is not as easy as many might think.

My first thought was to use my AppleTV since it was wired directly to my router. But Apple didn’t bother putting gigabit Ethernet into it (pre-4K version) so nope. My computers on wi-if did better, but only the newer ones because older wi-if standards don’t support speeds high enough.

The thing is, I like the speeds I get. I can download gigs of data for work (still working from home) in just a few minutes from OneDrive. I can have streams work fine even when downloading games off steam. Previously the stream quality would often drop if I was at my cap.

What I’d really like to see is analysis on why we don’t get what is promised. Is it our devices, local congestion, backend congestion, server throttling, something else?

Anonymous Coward says:

Check you Number of connections

I pay spectrum for a 400 Mbps connection.

If I use fast.com to test my connection and leave the defaults, I get 260 Mbps.

If I open up the setting and increase the number of connections from the default of 8 to 15, my speed jumps to 500Mbps.

What is the standard test method used when assessing provider speeds?

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