Broadband Speeds: Good News, Bad News, and Suspicion

Carl Weinschenk
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Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016

Akamai’s Third Quarter, 2015 State of the Internet Report had a bit of good news and a bit of bad news. As usual, the report offers a lot of numbers. Global connectivity speed increased a very small amount -- 0.2 percent -- to 5.1 Megabits per second (Mbps) from the second quarter. However, the gain represented a far more impressive 14 percent year-over-year increase.

Another bit of mixed news was found in average peak connection speed. It dipped a bit – 0.9 percent – to 32.2 Mbps from the second to the third quarters. That followed, however, an increase of 12 percent during the second quarter compared to the first. The year-over-year growth for the third quarter was 30 percent.

Highlights were noted for Singapore (a 25 percent speed increase to 135.4 Mbps) and Macao (an 18 percent increase to 73.7 Mbps). Singapore remained atop the international listings. The firm found that about 15 percent of the world has broadband connections that are 15 Mbps, which the company rates as “4K ready. This represents is a 5.3 percent increase from the second quarter.” In the U.S., 10 states had 10 percent or more unique IP addresses operating at speeds of 25 Mbps or higher.

Changing those broadband numbers from year to year and quarter to quarter is a function of ongoing broadband projects and developments. And, in some cases, this work involves providing broadband to an area for the first time. This week, Telecompetitor reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorized $5 million in funding for three rural broadband experiments.

The commission is providing $240,000 to BARC Electric Cooperating in Virginia, $2.375 million to Douglas Services in Oregon, and $2.6 million to Northeast Rural Services for two projects in Oklahoma. The goal is to provide areas not served by broadband today with a minimum of 100 Mbps downstream and 25 Mbps upstream.

Akamai bases its assessments on the performance of broadband providers who use their networks, and there is no reason to suspect that the numbers aren’t legitimate. That isn’t always the case, however.

Newsfactor reports that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into whether Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Cablevision are providing services at the speeds they claim. The story reference a letter that Tim Wu, a net neutrality advocate who has been the AG’s Senior Enforcement Counsel since September, sent to the providers:

In his October 23 letters sent to Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, Wu wrote that the attorney general's office was concerned that "consumers may not be experiencing the speeds advertised." That concern extended to two issues, he added: whether "last-mile" speeds between the cable headend and a customer's home deviated far enough from promoted speeds to "render the advertising deceptive"; and whether decisions made at interconnection points between the Internet service provider and other networks "may so affect end-to-end throughput that the speeds are not what was promised."

While it is no longer possible to make dramatic gains, the speed of broadband networks in the United States and around the world has seen a gradual uptick. Hopefully, that will continue for the rest of the year and beyond.

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 and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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