The Federal Communications Commision (FCC) recently released a report entitled “Measuring Broadband America,” which details the history and current state of broadband internet speeds across the United States. The study shines a light on the exponential growth of internet speeds, particularly amongst cable providers, over the last five years. No study should be analyzed on cursory information alone, so we’ve taken this study apart and compiled the highlights for you below.
The first step when looking at any study, is to analyze the sample audience that was used to gather the data. In this case, the FCC took thirteen internet service providers (ISPs) that account for 80% of residential broadband subscriptions across the country. While DISH Network is not included in this list, the sample is extensive enough to be representative of the broadband space. The specific ISPs used to collect the data for this report are: AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, Mediacom, Optimum, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, ViaSat, and Windstream.
The report begins by painting an exciting portrait of the ISP landscape saying:
“This year’s report shows that broadband speed offerings to the average consumer continue to increase at a rapid pace, and broadband service providers generally are delivering actual speeds that meet or exceed advertised speeds.”
If you take the median numbers of all thirteen ISPs the average download speed has nearly quadrupled since the 10 Mbps measured in March 2011. If you compare last year’s average download speed of 32 Mbps to this year’s you’re looking at an increase of 22%! With the continued improvement of technology, particularly in the fiber space, we can expect that number to continue to grow as time moves on.
However, the report goes on to point out that not all technologies are created equal, and while the greater ISP vertical is improving, there are certain services (like DSL based ones) that are not contributing to the growth of the space. One of the main takeaways of this report is that cable and finder ISPs are the leading contributors to the growth of the space.
While many consider fiber the technology of the future, cable is in fact the most significant contributor to this year-of-year improvement of broadband speeds. Over the last five years, the median speed increase of fiber alone comes out to around 14%. For cable? A whopping 44%! In stark contrast, DSL speeds have stayed constant over the same time period.
We can expect to see these numbers continue to rise, particularly given many cable companies recent investments in higher-speed modems. While there are many takeaways from this report, one thing is clear. There is a market for high-speed internet and cost does not seem to be a huge barrier.
So there you have it! Good news for consumers: internet speeds are going up! And those advertised speeds you see when shopping for a new service provider are generally accurate. It will be interesting to compare these numbers when next years report becomes available. For now, take solace in the fact that your buffering times will continue to shrink.