U.S. Broadband Speeds Accelerate

New FCC report is optimistic about American broadband Internet technologies.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 4, 2016
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The U.S Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its latest Measuring Broadband America report on December 30, providing a snapshot of the state of high-speed networking.

The big top-line result is that broadband networking speeds are on the rise in the U.S., in a big way. The average maximum advertised broadband speed across the U.S in September of 2014 was 72 Mbps, a 94 percent year-over-year gain from 37.2 Mbps in September 2013.

That said, there is a difference between the maximum advertised speeds and the actual download speeds that end users experience. According to the FCC report, the average actual download speed in September 2014 was approximately 31 Mbps, which is still a significant year-over-year gain. The FCC reported that in 2011 the actual average download speed was only 10 Mbps, which grew to 15 Mbps in 2012. In contrast, the latest Akamai State of the Internet report pegged the average connection speed in the U.S at 12.6 Mbps.

Download speed improvements across the U.S. also vary across different ISP and access technologies. The FCC found that the average annual increase in actual download speeds was highest for cable, at 61.2 percent annually, with DSL coming in at 28.2 percent and fiber at 19.2 percent.

From an ISP perspective, the FCC identified Cablevision, Comcast, and Verizon Fiber (FiOS) as ISPs that provide end users with actual download speeds that are consistently at or above the advertised speed.

There also is pattern of migration among broadband users that shows that the more speed they get, the more they want. The FCC found that among users in 2013 that only subscribed to a broadband service advertising broadband speeds of less than 15 Mbps, few migrated to a higher advertised speed service in 2014. On the other hand, for those broadband users subscribing to an advertised broadband download speed of between 15 Mbps and 30 Mbps, there was a higher rate of migration between 2013 and 2014 to higher service level tiers.

Downloads are only half of the broadband equation. Upload speeds are getting faster, too. According to the FCC, actual upload speeds averaged 9 Mbps in September 2014, up from 3 Mbps in 2011.

"Today’s report confirms that advances in network technology are yielding significant improvements in broadband speeds and quality," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "Faster, better broadband will unleash new innovations and new services to improve the lives of the American people."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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