* FCC to unveil results of national fixed broadband study
* Most ISPs within 80 percent of advertised speeds
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Aug 2 Broadband speeds are now significantly closer to what Internet service providers advertise than they were in 2009, a study to be released by U.S. communications regulators on Tuesday found.
Cable, DSL and fiber-to-the-home services were examined at 13 top U.S. broadband providers, representing about 86 percent of all U.S. fixed broadband connections.
Actual download speeds provided by the majority of U.S. broadband providers were within 80 percent or better of companies' advertised speeds even during peak usage hours, according to a draft copy of the report.
The findings are considerably improved from data collected in 2009 for a study on U.S. broadband performance that showed actual download speeds were more often around 50 percent of the Internet service provider's (ISP) advertised speed, the Federal Communications Commission said.
During peak consumer usage hours when networks are most busy and experience the greatest degradation in speeds, actual download speeds varied from 114 percent of advertised speed to a low of 54 percent of advertised speed among the different ISPs, the draft report said.
The 13 participating ISPs in the new study included Verizon Communications (VZ.N), which had its fiber and DSL services tested separately, AT&T (T.N), Comcast (CMCSA.O), Time Warner TWC.N, Cox Communications, Cablevision CVC.N, Frontier FTR.N, CenturyLink (CTL.N), Charter (CHTR.O), Insight Communications Co, Mediacom Communications, Qwest Communications and Windstream (WIN.O).
Average download speeds as a percentage of those advertised were highest for Verizon's fiber service and lowest for Cablevision.
Fiber-to-home services achieved the best speeds compared with advertised speeds during the peak hours between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weeknights when residential networks tend to be most congested. They met download speeds, on average, of 114 percent of advertised speeds. Cable services met 93 percent of advertised speeds during peak hours, while DSL met 82 percent, the draft copy of the report said.
CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT AGENDA
The study -- a recommendation of the FCC's National Broadband Plan -- is the first to provide measurements of residential wireline broadband performance on a national level.
The complete findings of the report, its raw data and an FCC-prepared guide for consumers will be made available online, furthering the agency's consumer empowerment agenda by helping consumers decide which Internet speed, service and provider best meets their needs, the FCC said.
"We've been working to arm consumers with information to help them make smart choices about the broadband service that's right for them. Informed consumers should lead to a healthier and more competitive broadband market," said Zachary Katz, chief counsel and senior legal adviser to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
Academic researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech as well as technology vendors and consumer groups also worked on the study. Some 6,800 households were selected for testing with 13 different tests conducted multiple times a day over several months in each home to assess broadband performance.
Speed and performance were measured as broadband was delivered to the home, the FCC said, to eliminate the effects of equipment, home networks and other factors on test results. (Reporting by Jasmin Melvin, editing by Dave Zimmerman)