Commission unveils broadband performance research

In an effort to increase consumer knowledge regarding the performance of their high-speed Internet services, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released the first nationwide performance study of residential fixed broadband service.

Conducted in March 2011, the study examined service offerings from 13 of the largest broadband providers, which the Commission says account for about 86% of all wireline broadband connections in the United States. The study was based on direct measurements of broadband performance as delivered to the residences of several thousand volunteer broadband subscribers. Broadband services delivered by digital subscriber line (DSL), cable and fiber technologies were all evaluated.

The study’s most interesting finding is that actual broadband speeds achieve 80-90% of the speeds advertised by broadband service providers, even during peak usage periods. According to the FCC, that’s significantly better than a 2009 study of broadband performance in the U.S., which estimated that actual broadband speeds were about 50% of those advertised. The Commission’s study also affirms that the highest available speeds are beneficial for high-demand applications, such as videoconferencing, high-definition video streaming or gaming, but that speeds of up to 10 Mbps are sufficient for most basic web browsing.

Read a complete copy of the FCC’s research report on broadband performance.

In a related action, the Commission has also released a beta version of a broadband test for consumers that measures upload and download speeds, service latency and jitter. In order to run the test, consumers are required to provide address information, and the Commission says that it may use the data to analyze broadband quality on a more specific geographic basis. The broadband test is available at