Feeds

US gov proves ISPs lie about bandwidth

Pope? Catholic. Bear? In woods

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Business security measures using SSL

If you're an average US broadband user, you've had internet access for 10 years, spend about an hour a day online at home, and are enjoying far less of the bandwidth your service provider promises you.

These unsurprising stats come from a new report from the Federal Communications Commission entitled (equally unsurprisingly in plain-vanilla bureaucratese) "Broadband Performance", that provides detail on US fixed — not mobile — broadband.

There's a wonderful irony here that the recent Google-Verizon suggested diminution of the FCC's regulatory role also makes a clear distinction between fixed (to be regulated) and mobile (to be unregulated) broadband. But we digress...

The 30-page "Technical Paper No.4" was produced by the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, better known as the OBI, a core component of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, in support of the commission's efforts to address what it calls "the broadband availability gap".

The majority of the report's findings are typical of the need-to-know-but-could-have-guessed data nuggets that planners require to underpin any major government initiative. The interesting info, as is usually the case in such studies, is in the details.

Take, for example, the finding that actual broadband speeds are lower than as advertised by carriers. Amazing! Whodathunkit? Next the feds will be telling us that there is no Santa Claus, storks brings no babies, and that good beer tastes better when it's not ice cold.

What is interesting, however, is the high degree of variability in actual versus advertised data-download rates, as determined by data from Akamai, comScore, and the FCC's own research:

... in 2009, average (mean) and median advertised download speeds were 7-8 Mbps, across technologies. However, FCC analysis shows that the median actual speed consumers experienced in the first half of 2009 was roughly 3Mbps, while the average (mean) actual speed was approximately 4Mbps. Therefore actual download speeds experienced by US consumers appear to lag advertised speeds by roughly 50 per cent.

In its overview of possible causes for this discrepancy, the FCC mentions network congestion, "under-functioning wired and wireless home routers", latency, jitter, and packet loss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, knowing the delicate negotiations in which the FCC is currently embroiled, "bullshitting service providers" is not mentioned as one possible reason for service not matching promise.

Another "Well, duh!" FCC finding was that some users consume far more bandwidth than do others. What was surprising, though, was how great the discrepancies could be:

FCC broadband stats

Those "15+ gigabyte" data-slurpers are skewing the mean far above the median

"The extreme difference between average and median data usage is principally due to a relatively small number of users who consume very large amounts of data each month — sometimes terabytes..." the FCC explains. Furthermore, the data-suckiest one per cent of residential users "appear to account for" roughly 25 per cent of all traffic, and the top three per cent eat up 40 per cent.

If Cisco's dream comes true and we're all using the internet for high-def telepresence in some hyper-wired future, the median will move ever-closer to an ever-increasing mean, and Verizon's FiOS/FTTP gamble will look mighty smart. ®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
This flashlight app requires: Your contacts list, identity, access to your camera...
Who us, dodgy? Vast majority of mobile apps fail privacy test
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.