On December 1, 2016, the FCC published its sixth Measuring Broadband America report, which examines the speeds, latency, and consumer trends of fixed broadband services nationwide. Here are some of the key findings from the report:
Significant growth in broadband speeds available to consumers, though the results are not uniform across technologies. The median download speed, averaged across all participating ISPs, has almost quadrupled, from approximately 10 Mbps in March 2011, to approximately 39 Mbps in September 2015. Compared to last year’s value of 32 Mbps, this year’s median download speed was an increase of approximately 22%.
Since the first Measuring Broadband America report in August 2011, the average annual increase in median download speeds by technology is 47% for cable, and 14% for fiber, while popular DSL speeds have remained largely the same. (See the chart below for the growth in the median download speed over the past five years.)
Actual speeds experienced by most consumers meet or exceed advertised speeds. All ISPs using cable, fiber or satellite technologies advertise speeds for services that, on average, are close to the actual speeds experienced by their subscribers. Fixed cable and fiber broadband customers experienced speeds that were 100% or better than advertised.
The chart below shows the ratio of weighted median speed to advertised speed for a number of broadband providers. Of the 16 providers included in the sample, nine of them delivered actual download and upload speeds that are greater than the advertised speeds.
Consumers with access to faster services continue to migrate to higher service tiers. Data shows that panelists subscribed in September 2014 to service tiers with advertised download speeds between 15 Mbps to 50 Mbps are the most likely to have migrated towards higher service tiers. In contrast, among panelists subscribed in September 2014 to service tiers with advertised download speeds of less than 15 Mbps – offered mostly by DSL services – only a few percent migrated within the following year to a service tier with a higher download speed.
Latency and packet loss vary by technologies. Consumers generally experienced low latency – the time it takes for a data packet to travel from one point to another in a network – on DSL, cable and fiber systems. Higher latency in satellite services may affect the perceived quality of highly interactive applications such as VoIP calls, video chat and multiplayer games. Consumers generally experienced low packet loss – the percentage of packets that are sent by the source but not received by the destination – on cable, satellite and fiber systems.
The results of the FCC’s sixth Measuring Broadband America report show that the quality of broadband is increasing throughout the United States. Despite regulatory barriers that may have slowed investment and innovation in broadband technologies, the broadband market remains dynamically competitive and consumers are benefiting from faster speeds and more reliable connections.