Most home broadband users don't know their speed

Most U.S. residents don't know how fast their home broadband service is supposed to be, but they are satisfied with the speed they get, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported on Tuesday after conducting a nationwide phone survey.

Overall, 91% of broadband users said they were either "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with their home broadband speed, the FCC reported. However, 80% of the 3,005 respondents to the phone survey did not know the advertised speed of their service.

The survey, which asked about both home and mobile broadband, was one step in an ongoing FCC plan to determine broadband speeds and help consumers choose the right service for their needs. Also on Tuesday, the agency asked for 10,000 volunteers to participate in a study of their home broadband performance and sought public comment on how best to measure mobile broadband speed.

Though 67% of consumers believe service providers should always deliver the speed they promise, only 24% think they are getting that speed all the time, the survey found. Another 47% said they get the promised speed most of the time. However, half of all respondents with home broadband said they were "very satisfied" with the speed they got.

Mobile broadband performance scored lower. Only 33% of respondents who had smartphones were "very satisfied" with the Internet speed on the device, while 38% said they were "somewhat satisfied." The survey indicated that mobile Internet users are no longer a small elite: 34% of adults have a smartphone, the FCC said. The survey was conducted through calls to landline and cellular phones between April 19 and May 1.

The announcement came just days after Ookla, the operator of the Speedtest online connection measurement service, started compiling the results of millions of individual link tests into reports and rankings. When those went public last week, they showed the U.S. in 26th place worldwide with an average downstream speed of 10.16M bps (bits per second). The Internet activist organization Free Press downplayed those results as unscientific, saying respondents were "self-selected." Ookla said a broad range of Internet users -- about 1 million per day -- test their connections using Speedtest.

The FCC has been conducting a self-service broadband test since March, directing consumers to Speedtest and Measurement Lab to gauge their own connection speeds. The agency now wants 10,000 home broadband users to agree to have specialized equipment installed in their homes to monitor the performance of the nation's biggest broadband providers. They can sign up to participate at The FCC will run those tests in conjunction with SamKnows, a U.K. company that has already run a similar test in Britain with Ofcom, the U.K.'s equivalent of the FCC.

To tackle the question of mobile Internet speed, the FCC issued a public notice on Tuesday to gather views about how to measure those services. It also wants comment on how the resulting information can be used to improve service and what information consumers should be given about mobile broadband speed.

The mobile industry group CTIA said on Tuesday that it looked forward to educating the FCC about the complexities of wireless networks.

Because the wireless broadband environment is constantly changing, it is difficult to provide a specified speed to all consumers on a wireless network, the CTIA said. "Instead, wireless providers offer consumers a range of typical speeds that more accurately mirror the wireless broadband experience and they continue to aggressively invest to provide ever-faster speeds for their consumers," CTIA said in a statement.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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