FCC: DOCSIS 3 Helps Drive Rapid Rise in Fixed Broadband Speeds

The FCC has released its fifth report on fixed broadband speeds and finds both a "significant" growth in advertised broadband speeds and that, in most cases, ISP subs get close to or better than those advertised speeds.

The Measuring Broadband America report found that ISP speed offerings continue to get faster a "rapid pace."

The average maximum advertised speed across all participating ISPs was 72 Mbps as of September 2014, up a whopping 94% from 37.2 Mbps in September 2013. But while cable and fiber-based ISPs were usually meeting or beating that advertised price, DSL had not kep pace and some continued to advertise speeds that they did not deliver.

The FCC said that was largely due to cable's deployment of DOCSIS 3 -- the maximum advertised speeds for cable ISP downloads increased from 12-20 Mbps in 2011 to 50-105 Mbps in September 2014.

The study is based on information provided by participating ISPs, which on the cable side included Comcast, Charter, Cablevision, Cox, Mediacom, and Time Warner Cable.

Cablevision, Comcast, and Mediacom all overdelivered on both upload and download speeds, while Charter, Cox and Time Warner Cable were all close to delivering on download speeds and met or exceeded upload speeds.

"Today’s report confirms that advances in network technology are yielding significant improvements in broadband speeds and quality,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “Faster, better broadband will unleash new innovations and new services to improve the lives of the American people. This comprehensive assessment of broadband performance helps to keep consumers informed and hold ISPs accountable.”

Not surprisingly, if cable builds it, subs are coming. The FCC found that consumers with access to higher speeds migrate to those tiers at higher rates.

Cable, fiber and DSL generally had low latency rates -- the time it takes for packets of data to travel to the end user -- while satellite had higher rates. Cable, satellite and fiber had lower packet loss, which can affect picture quality, than DSL.

“The FCC has again recognized Cablevision’s Optimum Online as one of the fastest and most reliable broadband products in the nation and the 2015 report affirms the consistency, quality and speed of our network,” said Kristin Dolan, Cablevision’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “Our customers enjoy an unparalleled broadband experience benefitting from Optimum Online’s superior performance and free access to the Optimum WiFi network of more than 1.3 million hotspots.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.