It turns out cable operators were nearly perfect at delivering on advertised broadband speeds.
That is according to the Federal Communications Commission's second study on advertised and actual speeds based on data from top ISPs, a study that chairman Julius Genachowski dubbed the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment ever of broadband speeds and performance.
Testing for the study was conducted in April 2012, and the FCC said Thursday the bottom line was "striking, across-the board" improvements.
Cable operators delivered 99% of those advertised speeds at peak periods, according to the FCC's just-released residential broadband speed survey, up from 93% in 2011. Cablevision actually delivered 120% of advertised download speeds to top the list of cable ISPS, and over 100% of upload speeds.
For that, Genachowski singled out Cablevision in remarks at the Thursday public meeting at which the study was unveiled, saying it had gone from a broadband speed "outlier" in the 2011 study (delivering 54% of advertised download speeds) to one of the performance leaders this time around. He was also making the point that the FCC's release of that initial study was one of the reasons for the improvements in the 2012 study over 2011, saying that operators who did well last year used that to promote their services, and ones who didn't do as well improved to be more competitive.
Cablevision appeared to back that up, issuing a release soon after the report was made public announcing "Report Recognizes Cablevision As One Of Nation's Leading Broadband Providers."
Mediacom was another cable standout, delivering 100% of advertised download speeds and almost 120% of upload speeds. Comcast also topped 100% in advertised download speed at peak periods and approached 120% in upload speed,.
"This survey shows the Xfinity network consistently delivers a superior broadband Internet service to our customers," said Cathy Avgiris, EVP and GM of data and communications services at Comcast. "As the largest ISP, we are proud to deliver more speed, more consistently to more homes than any other provider. We are proud of our performance and look forward to continuing to work with the FCC on this study."
Commissioner Robert McDowell pointed out that the survey did not include wireless broadband and said that needed to be made clear to consumers and rectified. Genachowski said the commission was working on it and agreed that mobile broadband info was needed as well. McDowell said the report was an encouraging sign of a competitive marketplace and that it was important not to do anything to discourage the private capital investments that drive that competition.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel agreed that the study needed to be expanded, and said that the study should do more than shine light on the speeds. Consumers needed to be able understand those speeds and what they mean for accessing an HD video stream, developing a website, logging into a teleconference or playing a video game.
Commissioner Ajit Pai said that they key question was whether consumers were getting what they had paid for, and the answer was a resounding "yes."
Genachowski agreed that the key to the study was giving consumers information to help them make smart choices. But he was not resting on his laurels, however. He said there was still room for faster speeds and lower per-gigabyte prices.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association agreed that the FCC needed to look beyond wired broadband to other parts of the broaband ecosystem. "With two successful tests of wireline broadband providers under its belt," NCTA blogged, "it may be time for the Commission to turn its attention elsewhere. For example, as described in a recent article in the Boston Globe, slow speeds on content provider websites often prevent consumers from receiving the full benefits of the "last mile" broadband access service they have purchased. Consequently, to obtain a fuller picture of the performance consumers are experiencing, the Commission may want to solicit the participation of popular content and application providers, such as Netflix and YouTube, in developing a voluntary testing regime for application providers."
Cable participants in the study included Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Mediacom, and Time Warner Cable, with Genachowski saying that more than a million subs conducted speed tests using FCC-supplied apps.