FCC Report on Broadband Performance: A Scare Tactic


Posted by Jenn Cobb on Friday, August 20th, 2010, 1:43 PM PERMALINK

This week Ars Technica played right in to the FCC’s hands when it published, “Your fears confirmed: ‘up to’ broadband speeds are bogus.” As the FCC pushes for government regulation of the Internet, they use tricky tactics to try to confuse the consumer and sway popular opinion against service providers. One of these measures is this week’s deluded FCC study “Broadband Performance,” in which the FCC measures household Internet speed and implies you’re not getting what you paid for. They found:

“Therefore actual downloaded speeds experienced by US consumers appear to lag advertised speeds by roughly 50 percent.”

First, the FCC report points out but ignores the fact that lag can often be caused by things like having an old computer, poor wiring, a bad Wi-Fi router, the distance of the website server you are accessing from your computer, etc.  A broadband provider can have available for you the consumer the full advertised speed, but the lag is completely out of their control.

Additionally, broadband providers list their speeds in “up to” forms, where if 10Mbps is the maximum speed in the range, you, as the consumer, are given an Internet speed up to 10Mbps appropriate for your usage.  If your daily computer use consists in reading your emails and checking the daily lolcatz post, per the FCC’s own report, you need only 0.5 Mbps.  This accounts for 80% of typical online activity.  Not only are you getting what you need, but the Internet speed can be allocated more efficiently in the network to people of different usage levels, for example an online gamer who needs at least 2-5 Mbps.  This will minimize online congestion and optimize performance.

The problem isn’t what’s in the report. The problem is that the FCC already understands these principles, but wants you to think that this highly efficient practice is victimizing you to try to convince you that we need government intervention. As they struggle to shift the Internet into a “Title II” misclassification, the FCC will try any means to get the public behind them, even purposeful misleading.

Meanwhile, another recent FCC study found that 91% of Americans are happy with their broadband speeds, probably for the above reasons.  In a recent Pew Poll, it was found that “By a 53%-41% margin, Americans say they do not believe that the spread of affordable broadband should be a major government priority.” And a recent Rasmussen Poll found Americans oppose regulation of the Internet by a 53%-27% margin.  The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, the Internet ain’t broke.

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