Broadband: Fast, but Not Everywhere, and ISPs Lie

Carl Weinschenk

It pays to have fast broadband service. And though those speeds seem to be increasing overall, progress is not uniform. There is also a question about whether people can trust what their providers are telling them.

The overall increase is noted by Akamai Technologies in its report highlighting the worldwide speeds during the fourth quarter of last year. David Belson, the editor of the company’s State of the Internet Report, was quoted as saying that “Internet connection speeds continued to show positive long-term growth around the world.”

The report found that speeds increased 26 percent compared to the year-ago quarter and now average 7 Megabits per second (Mbps). South Korea repeated as champ in the national category at 26.1 Mbps. The U.S. leader was the District of Columbia, with an average connection speed of 26.7 Mbps. There were increases in the percentage of 4 Mbps (15 percent), 10 Mbps (31 percent), 15 Mbps (37 percent) and 25 Mbps (45 percent) between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the year-ago quarter.

We also have new players. Google’s Project Loon will offer services to unserved or underserved locales, though it is unlikely to reach broadband speeds. On the broadband front, Hughes Network Systems, an EchoStar subsidiary, has gotten approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its HughesNet Gen5 service to be labeled a broadband provider. The service will use the new EchoStar XIX satellite to provide download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps, according to CNET. The service is set to launch next Thursday.


That’s all very impressive, but we still have a couple of points to consider. The first is that despite the overall increases in speed, some areas get left behind. For instance, users in London are complaining about connectivity in some parts of the city, including Canary Wharf.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is that internet service providers (ISPs) don’t do a great job of self-reporting their speeds. Earlier this year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Charter and Time Warner Cable for misrepresenting the speed of their networks. The companies (which became one during the course of the investigation) were not just shading the truth a little bit. The suit alleges that promised speeds of 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps and 300 Mbps were as much as 70 percent slower than advertised.

The accuracy of advertised speeds is not just a U.S. issue. ZDNet reports that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released guidelines for ISPs “to follow when advertising their broadband speeds in order to improve accuracy and prevent misleading claims.” The story says that the ACCC speed claims are not accurate and confusing for consumers to use.

Cable.co.uk released a survey of 2,000 consumers that found that 58 percent found advertised speeds very misleading and 22 percent found them somewhat misleading. BetaNews said that UK ISPs are allowed to say that “up to” the advertised speed is achievable if only 10 percent of subscribers actually can receive service at that rate. Respondents think it is fairer if at least two-thirds had real access to the top speed.

It is fair to say that broadband speeds around the world are increasing. Challenges remain in both addressing pockets of bad performance and making ISPs tell the truth.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

 



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