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Four out of five broadband users don't know kinds of speeds they get

Four out of five broadband Internet subscribers don’t know how fast their connections are, even as households and businesses spend more for faster connections advertised by their providers, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission.

The survey comes after separate findings by the agency that the actual speeds experienced by consumers are as low as half of what providers advertised. Those results, from a ComScore survey early this year, were announced by the FCC's task force assigned to create its national broadband plan.

In response to the sets of findings, the FCC said Tuesday that it will launch an experiment with 10,000 volunteers to tests speeds they receive in their homes. The agency said it wants to install hardware onto the connections that go into those homes to test exactly what speeds residents get and compare that with what the users signed up for. The FCC also said it will seek comments on how the agency can begin testing for mobile broadband speeds.

The FCC’s survey of 3,005 consumers showed last week that one in six cellphone users said they found surprising extra charges on their monthly cellphone bills. One half of all cellphone and landline Internet users said they were confused or unaware of early termination fees due for canceling a contract early.

The survey, conducted by Abt/SRBI and Princeton Survey Research Associates, support growing concern at the FCC that consumers aren’t equipped with enough information about their cellphone and Internet contracts even as they spend hundreds of dollars each month on the services they have come to rely on for everyday communications.

Even without knowing what speeds they are getting to connect to the Web, nine in ten people said they are satisfied with the speeds they are getting. But only 24 percent said they believe they always get the speeds that are advertised to them.

“Better information can help all consumers choose the broadband services that best meet their needs,” said Joel Gurin, chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau of the FCC. “Today, most people just know that their home broadband speed is supposed to be ‘blazing fast.’ They need more meaningful information to know exactly what speed they need for the applications they want to run, and what provider and plan is their best choice.”

Gurin stopped short of saying whether the FCC planned to create regulations on transparency of price and speeds of broadband. But in its national broadband plan, the agency recommended a potential nutrition label that would allow consumers to compare what speeds and prices are offered by carriers.

Check out what the FCC is doing on the consumer front, with this interview with Sherrese Smith, legal adviser to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 1, 2010; 11:33 AM ET
 
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Comments

Great news!!
Pres. Obama's FCC is interested in informing and protecting consumers.

Posted by: angie12106 | June 1, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I use Cox and it is pretty fast. Up to 2 MB/s downloading and up to 400 KB/s uploading. The problem is either Cox has the worst service in the world or they are throttling. Several times each hour my connection just goes dead. Then starts up. I plead guilty to being a torrent guy but at least I want to know if I am being throttled because it really is not much fun having your connection go down at least ten or more times an hour. Anyone use FIOS? Speed? Can the connection be split to several rooms?

Posted by: RickJohnson621 | June 1, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I have low-rent DSL (768k) from Verizon and the task manager function in Windows confirms that is what I am getting. We've had it for 6 years and it has worked as promised with the exception of 2 months when my wire to the street pole was damaged (since replaced by Verizon).

I think it's good to bring some metrics to broadband service - I think a lot of people are paying for much more than they use and others are not getting what they pay for. Utilities get regulated.

I expect that as the broadband market matures, the pricing structures will become more complex. Right now, the main price variable is peak download speed.

Should two customers with 5MB service pay the same, although one is a bit torrent user who downloads/uploads 100 times as much data over a month? I don't think so, although broadband providers haven't yet figured out a pricing scheme that is fair and acceptable in the marketplace.

I could see the market moving to something more like industrial electricity where customers' bills are based on peak electricity use AND on the total amount of electricity used during a month.

Posted by: priv05242010 | June 1, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I bet there is a huge percentage of people thinking they are getting Megabytes(MB) per second instead of Megabits (mb) from their provider. 1 Mb = .125 MB. About an eight of the speed.

Posted by: Snapper24 | June 1, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

If you want an idea of your speeds, go to speedtest.net and run the test ...
I got 33Meg/6meg on 5/0.9 via COX Hi-speed internet

Posted by: webdevgal | June 1, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

When I switched from AT&T DSL to Comcast Internet (because of relocating 2 miles out of town) I found that after using Comcast for a couple of weeks that my Comcast wireless connection (I use a laptop) was faster than my AT&T DSL using ethernet. The Comcast cost is the same as AT&T DSL.

Posted by: kkrimmer | June 1, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I have Verizon FIOS 25down and 25up 25/25 and it has been performing at that speed since I upgraded. Before that it was 15/5 and it did well and always was within the speed ratings. I've tested the connection and for the most part it stayed or exceeded the speeds I was told. Never had a problem except one and that was because of a surge that hit the box outside and they had to replace the motherboard to get it back online. Verizon FIOS has been great and I love it. Now for the service that sometimes could be more customer friendly as to scheduling times ect. Other than that great service.

Posted by: Concerned5 | June 1, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Internet companies, like almost all businesses, walk a fine line between lies and truths.

One of the best ones, for example, is "up to xx Mbps. I have never experienced the "up to" number advertised by my provider.

People also need to realize the difference between Mbps and MBps.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_rate_units

I have a diet plan that will allow you to lose "up to" 35 pounds per week. What I don't tell you is that in order to do that you must not eat anything and you must exercise hard for at least 8 hours per day.

Inform yourself and caveat emptor.

Posted by: spamsux1 | June 1, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's a page for some speed tests.

http://www.google.com/search?q=online+speed+check&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

Posted by: spamsux1 | June 1, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Yeah your ISP knows how to fudge the results of those speed tests so things look faster than what you are actually getting.

If you download a REALLY big file you can see what is happening. The first little bit of the file downloads at VERY high speed to trick the speed test, and then the rest of the file downloads much slower. This trick works because the speed test only uses a small file.

Ignore the bogus speed test, run your own test by downloading a Linux .iso file or a similar large file.

Posted by: frantaylor | June 1, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse


I bet there is a huge percentage of people thinking they are getting Megabytes(MB) per second instead of Megabits (mb) from their provider. 1 Mb = .125 MB. About an eight of the speed.

Posted by: Snapper24

--------------------

I think you are giving people too much credit. I doubt most of the population has any idea what a megabit/megabyte is. All they know is 4 is faster than 2, etc.

Posted by: ghokee | June 1, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

How fast a connection? It's fast enough. How fast is your server, Ms. Kang?

We see vast differences between responses from different sites, regardless of the time of day, and so we know that nearly all the delays have nothing to do with the Internet or the final mile.

Instead, nearly all differences in practical use of the Internet are caused by differences in server performance.

Posted by: AppDev | June 1, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

If the Post did not access a couple of dozen affiliate sites every time I access a page my effective speed would increase greatly. Let's see, what do we have . . .

outbrain.com
ytimg.com
scorecardresearch.com
doubleclick
cleanprint.net
digg.com
tweetmeme.com
twitter.com
facebook.com
wapolabs.com

Among about 10 others

Sometimes you hit one of these sites and it just hangs and hangs.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | June 1, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

How fast is your Internet connection? For almost all Americans, the answer is: "more than 10 times slower than the average South Korean internet connection."

The USA is a huge backwater when it comes to high-speed internet: we pay more for worse service than most other advanced industrialized countries.

Want to know why? Follow the money! You can start by looking at the huge "campaign contributions" made by the telecom companies to our legislators.

Posted by: kcx7 | June 1, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Something that should be remembered is that cable internet service is a shared commodity, unlike DSL, FIOS, other non cable connections; as more users in your area use a cable connection the speed drops. When I first got COX the speed was very good (I don't remember download/upload speeds) but when more individuals in my neighborhood added COX internet service my speed dropped noticeably. I had since switched to FIOS and have the lower end connection which is the same speed as I had with COX back seven years ago.

Posted by: AlfromAlexandria | June 1, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Great! you did a survey. What would be more interesting is what are the speeds that the various wireless services actually provide.

We are on DSL and the speed sold is the speed I'm getting. However, Qwest/Verizon tried to charge me for their premium service. The difference is 25 dollars per month re 19.95 for DSL vs 45 for 20 MPS.

I'm thinking about going wireless since Comcast wanted 75 dollars a month for 20 MPS when I called for a quote. When I called AT&T and asked a customer rep what speeds were their wireless uploads/downloads he said the same as all the others. When pressed it became apparent he was clueless. Still looking for operational wireless speeds so I can make a decision to ditch DSL. Can't get fiber in my neighborhood.

Posted by: rsleonard9 | June 1, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm laughing at someone saying that their 2MB/400KB service is fast.

Verizon FIOS: 35Mb/35Mb.

That's pretty d*mned fast. And I get it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, never slows down.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | June 1, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

"Fast" is relative.

Posted by: bluesette01 | June 1, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"I'm laughing at someone saying that their 2MB/400KB service is fast.

Verizon FIOS: 35Mb/35Mb.

That's pretty d*mned fast. And I get it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, never slows down."

Well, that was me, but as someone who downloads huge files, I can assure you it has nothing to do with your speed, rather it has to do with the site you are connected with and in the cases of torrents the amount of seeders. I am guessing I could download and upload much, much faster, but that for me is not a big deal right now. What is driving me crazy is the way Cox cuts off at least ten times every hour. I am doing the research and I will soon be switching to FIOS. 35MB/35MB is amazing. Another time I brought up my speed on a forum, some guy in Finland laughed and said he got 180MB/s. Now that is where I want to be.

Posted by: RickJohnson621 | June 1, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

If the Post did not access a couple of dozen affiliate sites every time I access a page my effective speed would increase greatly. Let's see, what do we have . . .

outbrain.com
ytimg.com
scorecardresearch.com
doubleclick
cleanprint.net
digg.com
tweetmeme.com
twitter.com
facebook.com
wapolabs.com

Among about 10 others

Sometimes you hit one of these sites and it just hangs and hangs.
*******************************************
I second that. WAY too many middlemen in cyberspace. I wonder how many are data miners?

Posted by: st50taw | June 1, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Gurin stopped short of saying whether the FCC planned to create regulations on transparency of price and speeds of broadband. But in its national broadband plan, the agency recommended a potential nutrition label that would allow consumers to compare what speeds and prices are offered by carriers.
++++++++++++++++

What good is this if speeds fluctuate regularly from ISPs say you are getting?

Posted by: moebius22 | June 1, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

As measured by which test? When I wanted to confirm my extra-cost upload speeds on FIOS, the tests listed on the FCC site http://www.broadband.gov/qualitytest/about/ were not the ones the Verizon CSR would agree to using. Upload speeds are especially dicey, as they seem to vary greatly whereas the download speeds are fairly consistent. Why do I care? Offsite backup.

Posted by: knowlengr | June 1, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

As measured by which test? When I wanted to confirm my extra-cost upload speeds on FIOS, the tests listed on the FCC site http://www.broadband.gov/qualitytest/about/ were not the ones the Verizon CSR would agree to using. Upload speeds are especially dicey, as they seem to vary greatly whereas the download speeds are fairly consistent. Why do I care? Offsite backup.

Posted by: knowlengr | June 1, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

no matter how fasr your connection is...
it doesn't matter if your routter, computer, etc are slower and with less broadband...

Posted by: DwightCollins | June 1, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I agree with frantaylor about speed test sites. They generally give bogus results. Test your speed by downloading a 100+MB file and time it. (Look for podcasts if you're worried about downloading something fishy.)

Also agree with AppDev. You will not notice appreciably faster loading of most webpages with faster service, indicating that the bottleneck is almost always server based at the far end.

"Anyone use FIOS? Speed? Can the connection be split to several rooms?"

@RickJohnson621, The router Verizon provided me has 4 LAN ports. I suppose you can buy a long line, but it is also a wifi router and I haven't notice a big drop in performance with one PC and two laptops actively browsing (not downloading) the web. An earlier model of this is what they gave me:

http://www.actiontec.com/products/product.php?pid=189

Posted by: prokaryote | June 1, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

To RickJohnson621 -

I also have Cox, I don't use any torrents, and my connection also goes dead on a regular basis.

Posted by: solsticebelle | June 1, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget time zone differences.

If you live on the west coast, you will find that your weekday speeds perk up after 8:30 p.m PST. By then, most the east coast is asleep.

Most Americans live in the central and eastern time zones. Thus, try to avoid the net when it's likely they're online.

It all boils down to how many users are banging on the front door at the destination server.

Posted by: taskforceken | June 1, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

25Mbps FiOS. It's wicked good.

Posted by: Corn_Laden | June 1, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Bitter Bill.

I've asked the Post to create a pay website that, at the least, strips off all the garbage, popups, ads, flyouts, etc that riddle their site. Other premium features such as truly monitored forums would be nice as well but I'd certainly pay for the former today.

That and a hamburger.

Posted by: tslats | June 1, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

All I know is that it is not as fast as promised. I had Comcast, or "Xfinity" cable internet for years, thinking it was pretty quick. That is, until I installed a Sprint Mobile Broadband card and got much faster download speeds and mobility. I have since sent Comcast and their horrible, if not hostile, customer service packing.

Posted by: PepperDr | June 1, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I use Verizon FIOS and generally get around 20 Mb/S down and 5 Mb/S up. I could get faster service from them but this suits my needs and it's reliable. I never got even remotely close to those speeds, or even to promised speeds, from Comcast. They inherited a lot of problems from Montgomery Cable who did a shoddy job of installing their digital lines, and they seem to badly oversell their shared bandwidth. FIOS isn't shared so it won't degrade due to new subscribers. I recently heard that FIOS is not planning to expand to any more cities which I find surprising. Every one I know you uses it loves it.

Posted by: Chip_M | June 1, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

With ATT - you never get the advertised speed consistently. The speed analyzers stop working during short overloads and report only when speeds come back up. As well you can't start you speed test until there is service. If you had a full time graphic display you would see frequent short periods of no speed. If you have enough short periods of no service - your actual speeds and avg. speeds are far below even what test indicators are telling you. Broadband customers in the US are being abused so badly by the limited number of broadband providers, that it is quite literally criminal. The FCC is their enabler. The average satisfaction numbers above are totally created by the provider or FCC. Who do you know that is satisfied.

Posted by: masonxhamilton | June 1, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Great commercial for the FCC - remember it's those people who said they have no authority over the internet.

Posted by: masonxhamilton | June 1, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

When I returned to the United States from several years of living in Japan, it was like moving to a third world country. ALL of the cellular service providers in the States are absolutely horrible, with poor coverage, pathetic data rates, high cost, and spotty availability when you do get a signal. On top of that, you have to sign ridiculous contracts to gain access to a decent terminal (cell phone).

When I first moved to Japan my home was in a quite rural area, so I had to settle for DSL. Nevertheless, the DSL that I had was much better than the 'broadband' that I get now in the States. I was later able to get fiberoptic Internet access. Japan's fiberoptic is easily YEARS ahead of the cheesy offerings Americans get like Fios. Americans may actually NEVER get Internet access of the quality and speed that Japanese, Taiwanese and Koreans have enjoyed for years already.

America's telecommunications infrastructure is truly pathetic now. How I long for the days when Ma Bell gave us the world's most advanced telecommunications for cheap. Bell/AT&T used to be a technological powerhouse that drove a number of the tech revolutions of the Twentieth Century, while giving the American consumer a bargain. Since the break up of that heavily regulated monopoly (practically a nationalized industry), though, we have been left with a shifty array of shabby scammers who have done absolutely NOTHING innovative since and have provided the nation with, at best, a second rate telecom infrastructure.

Go USA... meh...

Posted by: Geezle | June 1, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I have used the internet since the late 80's, have had many carriers and none would state a promised speed. Read your contract, no speed is promised. The worst one was Comcast on a regular basis from 10am thru 2pm most weekdays I paid for Broadband and got less then dial-up speed. I then started AT&T DSL and found that it was faster because it was Consistent unlike Comcast that had it's up and lows. Oh!, when I complained to Comcast they did send out a repairman to check out my cable TV, he knew ZERO about internet service.

Posted by: southernrican | June 1, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I regularly download very large files. Sometimes it takes 20+ minutes to download a 500MB file and sometimes it takes less than 15 minutes.

The time of day, the popularity of the site and the type of "tube" you have to get to the backbone all determine the speed of your connection.

Now, if I could get a direct fiber optic connection to the little room on Almaden Blvd in San Jose, I would be really happy.

Michael in San Jose

Posted by: mperata | June 1, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's a measurement tool anyone can use any time.

http://reviews.cnet.com/internet-speed-test/

Posted by: featheredge99 | June 2, 2010 1:34 AM | Report abuse

You can test the speed of your Internet connection here:

http://www.speedtest.net/

I use it routinely when the connection appears slow or has problems (dropouts). The issue of speed is, as noted, the compounded by the load on your ISP and the whole Internet communications system and traffic. The Website above allows you to test connections around the US and the world.

Posted by: wsrphoto | June 2, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

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