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Cable Dominates Download Speeds, Telcos Top Uploads: Study

Cable operators top the list of fastest U.S. residential Internet service providers based on download speeds -- but telcos fare better on the upstream side, according to data collected by network-diagnostics provider Ookla.

The top five residential ISPs in the country based on average download speed performance are Comcast, followed by Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems' Optimum Online, Midcontinent Communications and Time Warner Cable's Road Runner. That's based on 6.6 million individual speed tests per day collected between June 27 and July 26, 2010, via Ookla's website.

Over that 30-day period, average download speeds for those MSOs were: Comcast, 16.23 Mbps; Charter, 15.04 Mbps; Cablevision, 14.39 Mbps; Midcontinent, 14.34 Mbps; and Time Warner Cable, 13.44 Mbps.

However, on the upstream side, the top three providers are telcos -- SureWest Broadband, Verizon and AT&T -- followed by Comcast and Cox Communications. The average upload speeds over the same period are: SureWest, 9.49 Mbps; Verizon, 5.80 Mbps; AT&T, 5.23 Mbps; Comcast, 3.51 Mbps; and Cox, 3.49 Mbps.

Ookla provides the ISP data for consumers on its Net Index website sorted by download, upload or quality and geographical region.

For the U.S. overall, the average download speed is 9.87 Mbps with an average upload speed of 2.12, according to the company's data for the June 27-July 26 period.

On downstream speeds, the U.S. ranks 27th. The world's five fastest broadband countries are: South Korea (31.38 Mbps downloads), Latvia (24.13 Mbps), the Netherlands (22.70 Mbps), the Republic of Moldova (22.08 Mbps) and Lithuania (21.68 Mbps).

Ookla said it will soon add a "value" component to Net Index, allowing consumers to see the cost breakdown associated with broadband services by country, state, city and ISP.

The Value Index is currently in development, but to date Ookla has collected survey information from more than 100,000 broadband-only participants. Preliminary data shows the current average monthly cost for broadband in the U.S. at $47.32, with the average cost per Mbps at $5.06, although this varies greatly from state to state. For example, based on download speed, California broadband costs just $4.24 per Mbps, while residents of Idaho pay $8.80, Washington respondents averaged just $3.89 per Mbps and Michigan subscribers pay $6.36, according to Ookla.

Seattle-based Ookla provides broadband speed testing -- with more than 1.5 billion individual tests to date -- and Web-based network diagnostic applications. Its customers include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, Cox Communications, ESPN, CNN and Cisco Systems.