Back in 2011 the FCC began collecting real-world user broadband data from customized routers, then issuing reports on which ISPs were failing to deliver advertised speeds. It's one of the few FCC policies in recent years that has truly paid dividends for consumers. The first report
"named and shamed" several larger ISPs like Cablevision for offering horrible peak performance, offering less than 50% of advertised sustained speeds at peak hours.
The tactic did wonders initially -- by the second report
Cablevision had boosted that performance to 128%. Of course most ISPs have followed suit, provisioning tiers so they deliver slightly more than the tier is advertised for.
Today the FCC released their fourth such report
. According to the FCC's latest data, the ISPs tracked are now delivering 101% of advertised download speeds, compared to 97% in 2013. Performance obviously differed by technology, with cable and fiber leading the way.
"On average, during peak periods DSL-based services delivered download speeds that were 91 percent of advertised speeds, cable-based services delivered 102 percent of advertised speeds, fiber-to-the-home services delivered 113 percent of advertised speeds, and satellite delivered 138 percent of advertised speeds," notes the FCC.
Not everybody wins blue ribbons, however. The agency notes that while most ISPs "meet 90% of performance or better on average during peak periods," DSL providers like Verizon DSL, CenturyLink, Frontier DSL and particularly Windstream still struggle to deliver close to advertised speeds, especially at peak times.
Anybody who has spent any time in our Windstream forum
probably won't find this surprising. Many DSL providers, whose upgrade path is more costly than cable's DOCSIS 3.0, don't see the competition needed to drive them to upgrade -- and therefore they don't care what the FCC has to say. Others, like Verizon, are actually in the process of trying to ditch these customers so they can focus on wireless
, and similarly probably don't much care what the FCC has to say.
Still, the FCC -- historically an agency that talks a lot but doesn't seriously do much to address competitive issues
, hopes a strongly-worded letter might get the ball rolling.
"While it’s encouraging to see that in the past these reports have encouraged providers to improve their services, I’m concerned that some providers are failing to deliver consistent speeds to consumers that are commensurate to their advertised speeds," FCC boss Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "As a result, I’ve directed FCC staff to write to the underperforming companies to ask why this happened and what they will do to solve this."
Again, though -- if you lack the competitive incentive to improve and innovate, or you're leaving a sector and simply don't care what consumers think
, a letter from an FCC staffer isn't likely to fix things.