FCC: 80% of users are clueless about broadband speeds

By on June 3, 2010, 5:05 PM
According to the FCC, around four out of five consumers are clueless about the speed of their broadband connection. In a survey released earlier this week, the agency found that some 80% of consumer broadband users in the United States don't know the speed of their connection. Despite that ignorance, more than 90% were either "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with their service.

Nonetheless, the FCC is launching two initiatives to better control what broadband speeds consumers are receiving regardless of their satisfaction levels. One is reportedly a $600,000 study that will measure broadband speeds in the homes of 10,000 voluntary participants, and the other is simply a call for consumer feedback on how to measure mobile broadband speeds.

That finding isn't particularly staggering, after all, most people aren't interested in technical minutiae as long as everything works. That isn't to say consumers don't care about a speedy connection, however. "If they don't know their speed and they're happy, then they're basically saying it's not paramount in the consumer's mind to know their exact speed," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

Whether folks care about their bandwidth rate is one thing, but the FCC believes they shouldn't be overpaying for Internet access. Based on the agency's analysis, consumers often receive a connection that is only half the advertised speed. "If people are unaware of speeds, they could be effectively overpaying for broadband," Genachowski said.




User Comments: 31

Got something to say? Post a comment
TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"That finding isn't particularly staggering, after all, most people aren't interested in technical minutiae as long as everything works."

Exactly. All of my techno-nerd friends routinely check their speed. But my non-technical friends and relatives don't have the slightest idea what speed they have, much less how to check it. But they all seem pretty happy with what they have.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I suppose that expecting the average user to be able to read the download speed out of the download window in Firefox would be asking too much of them.

princeton princeton said:

captaincranky said:

I suppose that expecting the average user to be able to read the download speed out of the download window in Firefox would be asking too much of them.

Although they could do that most people probably wont notice the difference between Mbps and mbps(megabytes and megabits). So that wouldn't help them there as internet speed advertised is in megabits.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Actually, you would multiply the Mbs per second (claimed by ISP) by .00012 to get KBs, which is what FF reports in the download window.

Now all I have to figure out how many leading zeroes to the right of the decimal point to conver Gbs to KBs. You probably should convert to MBs first, I suppose.

I confess, I have 1Meg service and it does make the math very easy.

Guest said:

Wow that is great for all those slow Cable companies that run on slow outdated networks because they cannot run Fiber to the Home like other providers. When you pay for a 10Mb/s cable modem connection you never get full speeds unless all your neighbors are not on at the same time. When I do private computer work at homes and users complain of slow internet and I run speed tests the average cable user gets between 1-7Mb/s when they are supposed to be getting 15-20Mb/s. Very funny how normal users don't care and get ripped off every day for a QoS that is way under its limits.

If you want a good stable internet connection switch to companies that actually provide Fiber to the Home and have to install hardware at your house to ensure it is actually coming to your house. I have a 25Mb/s Upload and Download connection from Verizon Fios and I check at least once a month to see if I am getting rated speeds and never has my connection had less then 24Mb/s symmetrical at any given time of day. This speed only costs $30 per month and they will soon be giving me the new 35Mb/s symmetrical speed for the same price which is insanely fast for a home user.

The last college I worked for had a 60Mb/s symmetrical connection and paid $80,000 a year and for half that speed i pay $30 a month! Look at the price comparison right there and tell me that companies aren't ripping off both low end consumers like us and large corporate environments.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

.

If you want a good stable internet connection switch to companies that actually provide Fiber to the Home and have to install hardware at your house to ensure it is actually coming to your house. I have a 25Mb/s Upload and Download connection from Verizon Fios and I check at least once a month to see if I am getting rated speeds and never has my connection had less then 24Mb/s symmetrical at any given time of day. This speed only costs $30 per month and they will soon be giving me the new 35Mb/s symmetrical speed for the same price which is insanely fast for a home user.

I'm a Verizon DSL subscriber, and sadly FIOS won't be coming to a ghetto near me anytime soon, I don't think.

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

Indeed, FiOS has extremely spotty coverage at the moment. For what it's worth, my (cable) connection is about three times *faster* than advertised. Figure that one out. Not sure if there's a mistake on the ISP's end but I'm not complaining.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Not really surprising, as pointed out the average user doesn't even know there is a difference between MB and Mb. For me personally my advertised speeds are 12/1 and I get about ~5/.9 sometimes less depending on the time of day.

@Guest I wish I could just switch ISP's but sadly they have a monopoly in my area =/. One of the biggest issues that seems to always get overlooked.

@Matthew Maybe no one in your area is ever online? /shrug

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

I too receive much higher speeds that advertised by comcast. I pay for 12Mbps down and typically test at 19-30. I'm not going to complain.

Guest said:

@ captaincranky

Would you mind explaining how the you were able to get a 25mb/s Fios connection for Only $30!? I've got to shell out $35 per month just to keep my Embarq 3mb/s connection going. "Rip-off" wouldn't even begin to describe this $#%&. What Gives?

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Most don't care about higher speeds, not at higher cost! I care what I am paying for. If I ask some family member what is your download speed you're paying for the answer is always? What? I don't know what you mean. Call them up and ask. Then come back a day or two later to say 6 m something. So you can see they don't know. When it slow then they think it's the PC, but really it's the low mbps they're getting!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

@ captaincranky

Would you mind explaining how the you were able to get a 25mb/s Fios connection for Only $30!? I've got to shell out $35 per month just to keep my Embarq 3mb/s connection going. "Rip-off" wouldn't even begin to describe this $#%&. What Gives?

Dude. I didn't post that, I merely quoted the person that did. As I said above, I have 1 Meg DSL from Verizon.

Actually I think you posted it, or you both are named "guest". Should I have capitalized the "G"?

Guest said:

@ captaincranky

Sorry about that, I was referring to the dude above your post.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

I constantly check my speed. I have 3Mbps and test it often, averaging out anywhere between 2.3 - 2.7Mbps. This may be because half the block uses the same provider, lol. We only have a choice between AT&T or Comcast. But i've had friends who were paying for a certain speed and when I showed them how to test, they saw they were only getting half of what they were paying for. I can't imagine how many other people are in the same situation and don't even realize it.

The US is behind in the internet business anyway, so none of this comes as a surprise. It seems all the other countries offer twice the speeds we have here in the US for about the price we offer for our speeds.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I'm not at all taken by the description of the article. 18% of people in the U.S think the sun revolves around the earth.

Guest said:

Any good programs out there that tell you what your speed is?

windmill007 said:

I always use http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ and choose the server closest to you

Docnoq said:

Sadly, I only have 1Mbps connection :-(

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Sadly, I only have 1Mbps connection :-(

Me too....., but I like it. I'm "locked in for life @ $17.95 a month. It does actually consistently deliver 1Mbs download speed, and a twitch more..

windmill007 said:

I get Verizons 3MB for $24.99..plus 756K upload verse 128k on the 1MB plan. Big difference!

gobbybobby said:

Well most my freinds know and care about the speed they get (becuase u either get less than 2 meg, or more than 10, country/city split. Freind in town. 12 meg. Me on Farm, 1.5meg. Freind on Housing Estate 0.256 Meg < yea they build a 1000 house estate but no exchange even close to it. My nan who lives on far side gets 2 meg, My dad gets about 1 meg on that estate, but my poor old freinds line only supports 0.256 and BT have no plans to upgrade the area before 2012.

''One is reportedly a $600,000 study that will measure broadband speeds in the homes of 10,000''

A complete Waste of Time and Money. I could tell them people don't get what they are paying for. Up to 8 meg ADSL means u could get 0.256 even slower. Up to 24 meg ADSL2 means u could end up getting OH look 0.256Meg or even slower. FTTH is the best solution giving people 50meg/100meg+. Or there is FTTC. My freind on the Housing estate is close the a cabinate so if FTTC is rolled out there he could get just under 40meg with just under 10meg upload. my line goes straight to the exchange. No chance I be upgraded before 2017. When something like 95% will have Fibre... I will be in the %5 that don;'t

(based on UK other countrys may have different tech that give different speed.)

BT= British Telecom the people that Own most/all of the UK phone and ADSL (some fibre) based broadband Lines.

jakeshjo1953 said:

There are all kinds of people out there so yes for some it is too much to ask. Most non tech people just like it to work they don't care how it works. I'm always being asked to fix peoples computers and internet connections and more than not it is a simple push the right button type fix. Love them anyway don't hate.

Guest said:

Interesting. I have Cox Cable, and just ran a test from one of my computers. I think what I found might be interesting. I used speedtest.net, of course, and used Boston's Towerstream - although in the past I've actually seen faster transfers from New York. I live in southeast Rhode Island - 80 miles from Boston.

I tested with Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.5.9, Google Chrome, and - AOL 9.0 (wait - it gets better). Results:

Down Up Ping

IE 16.9 6.05 25

FF 18.8 6.29 21

GC 45.3 5.75 24

AOL 8.36 4.09 96

Chrome was showing about the same speed as IE and FF, until the last few seconds of the test, and then suddenly shot up to 45.3. (Note: when I connect directly to my cable modem, I typically get 36 mb/s down, 8.5 mb/s up - these measurements are through a Linksys router and two switches). I suspect that there's some funny business going on here, but I don't know what.

As for AOL, the interesting thing is that while the test was running, the little guy on the map showed in the middle of the country someplace - maybe south of Kentucky - whereas all the other little guys were standing in southern New England. The upshot is that the speed measured included the trip to AOL's computers and back to me. But you still need to factor that in unless you are in the same city as those computers, if you use AOL.

I might continue to test some more - particularly Chrome - and AOL from different locations around the country. But this is interesting.

Costs me about $40/month for broadband when bundled in with a Cox TV/phone/broadband package. More later.

Guest said:

So does that mean that ignorance is Bliss... NO! IT's about time the FCC Should hold accountable those companies that CLAIM to have faster speeds and not deliver it. I still think though that the consistancy is something also to work for!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I get Verizons 3MB for $24.99..plus 756K upload verse 128k on the 1MB plan. Big difference!
Is this a "locked in for life" plan. I think the 3Gb is about 34 bucks to get now. I think you meant "3Gbs", not 3MB. I doesn't convert, 3Gbs to 3MBs directly, binary math. Let me know if I'm wrong here.

Guest said:

you pay $30 a month for 25 mb FIOS? Thirty dollars? Puhleesse!

Guest said:

He is not telling the truth obviously. Not accusing him or deception, but certainly of ignorance. There is no place in the country you can get that speed for that price.

maddmatt02 said:

I pay for 10/1(cant get a faster upload from my isp) and speedtest shows around 6-7/1 usually. I do show 10 sometimes, but never more.couple family members have same isp in the next town and a 1.5 can show almost 3 and a 5 can show almost 6-7 as well. if only I could get the 5Mbps down and still get the 1 up....

when browsing the web though it doesnt feel anything like 10M, maybe my isp just knows when I am running a test and says oh crap we better let him have it all right now...

foxrox foxrox said:

There are few choices in my area. Verizon has just sold out to some outfit called Frontier, whom I have never heard of. Verizon's service has been really crappy and overpriced, so it will be interesting to see what comes of this change. I have a gut feeling it is not going to be good.

I also wonder how this is going to affect my "bundle". I have Verizon phone and DSL bundled with DirectTV and receive one bill from Verizon. The DirectTV is discounted $20 per month with the Verizon bundle. If the discount goes away and I have to pay two monthly bills, I am not going to be a happy camper. DirectTV has a very punitive early termination clause, so it would be really expensive to switch to the only other provider (Charter) in my area that offers decent broadband speeds.

Guest said:

3GB/ps would be extremely fast :D

3MegaBit second with verizon is typical.

3 megabit = 0.375 megabyte per second or about 375 kbytes/ps download rate.Where as 3GB/ps be about 384 megabytes per second. So in theory you would download a full 700mb cd image in less then 2 seconds. A DVD in less then 7 seconds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_rate_units

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.