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Annual FCC Internet Traffic Study Shows Netflix-Like Congestion

Unexpected Internet congestion showed up in the FCC’s annual survey as the agency looks into what’s going on.


Federal regulators uncovered unexpected Internet congestion during an annual study of download speeds, similar to what some Netflix subscribers have been complaining about in recent months.

Federal Communications Commission officials said they’d release raw data today from broadband tests conducted annually to measure how well Internet providers are offering advertised speeds.

Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency has obtained information from Netflix, Comcast and Verizon about their ongoing traffic-related disputes.

FCC officials said they’re continuing to gather traffic data about what’s happening in the middle mile of the Internet, as broadband providers and content companies exchange traffic. A senior FCC official said the agency hasn’t drawn any conclusions from the data collected during the annual study but it is looking into the issue. The agency expects to release more data collected about network congestion issues by the end of the year.

The agency omitted data from users who were experiencing lower-than-expected speeds due to clogged interconnection points because the annual survey is focused on average network performance.

A few people were seeing significant slowdowns, but the “majority of consumers accessing services through the many interconnection points within a service provider’s network would likely not be severely impacted by this situation,” the agency said in its report.

Other findings from the report:

Actual Download Speeds Are Pretty Close to Advertised
Almost all Internet providers are now providing download speeds that are equal to what they’ve advertised, the FCC found, saying actual download speeds were about 97 percent of advertised speeds during peak usage hours on average.

FCC Annual Download Speed Chart

However, there was some variation on the consistency of download speeds. Cablevision delivered at least 100 percent of advertised speed to 80 percent of the subscribers who are part of the FCC’s measurement panel about 80 percent of the time. But about a third of Internet operators provided only about 60 percent of advertised speed to 80 percent of customers 80 percent of the time.

Cable Internet Speeds Continue to Kill DSL
Download speeds from most Internet providers improved from the previous year, the agency found, except for companies offering DSL.

Frontier’s advertised DSL speed was five megabits per second in 2013 while Windstream’s was 3 Mbps. Overall, the average advertised Internet speed was 21.2 Mbps in 2013, compared to 15.6 Mbps the year before, the FCC found.

DSL providers are constrained from offering higher Internet speeds because of technological limitations. Qwest/Centurylink was the only DSL provider that increased its download speeds significantly over the year.

Nevertheless, Qwest/Centurylink, Verizon, Frontier and Windstream all failed to provide at least 90 percent of advertised speeds during peak usage hours, the FCC found. A senior FCC official said the companies will be receiving a letter from the agency asking for details about how they plan to improve their service.

This article originally appeared on

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