I have always believed that it is difficult to determined what causes broadband speeds to be slow, but that it is not always the fault of your ISP. In fact a recent report by MIT seems to confirm this and that broadband speeds in the U.S. are better than what the government thinks it is. The FCC has even concluded that that consumers receive just about half the speeds that their ISP’s advertise. So who is giving us the correct facts?
I believe that both the folks at MIT and the FCC are correct. There is not going to be an accurate speed test because the information highway is a real highway of sorts. Like most highways, speeds are going to fluctuate depending on the amount of traffic at any given time. I recall many a time sitting on highway 101 just outside of San Francisco at a dead stop. I always enjoyed looking at the speed limit sign, since it was rare one could even reach that speed. The exception was at 3:00am in the morning on a Sunday.
In a recent article at the Popsci site it also stated that:
The Federal Communications Commission released a National Broadband Plan back in March, which included the frustrating and surprising statement that most Americans’ broadband speed is half what service providers advertise.
But it might not be that bad after all, MIT researchers say — most Internet measuring methods underestimate the speed of the access network. That’s the part of the Internet ISPs actually control.
Slowness can often be attributed to home networks, users’ computers, and ISP servers instead, say MIT scientists Steve Bauer, David Clark and William Lehr.
In one example, Bauer ran a speed test on his home computer in Cambridge, Mass., using a test server in New York. Most of the time, he was getting rates close to those advertised by his ISP. One afternoon, the rate fell precipitously, and Bauer realized his ISP had re-routed his connection to a different server because the New York server was overloaded. The nearest free server was in Amsterdam — explaining why the speed dropped so much.
This rerouting of traffic will have an adverse affect on speeds, but the MIT testing also showed:
In the study — conducted by MIT labs which receive funding from telecom companies — the authors analyzed a half-dozen systems for measuring the speed of Internet connections. They underestimated the access’ networks speed for a variety of reasons, an MIT news release explains.
For instance, the FCC study analyzed data for broadband subscribers with different tiers of service. The analysis didn’t know which data corresponded to which tier, so they assumed the tier could be inferred from the maximum measured rate, MIT says. But in reality, the lower-tier subscribers sometimes ended up with better data rates than they paid for. The study the FCC relied upon misclassified this, the researchers say — good service on a cheap tier was classified as lousy service at a higher tier.
We have all experienced a slow down of the Internet. But is it the Internet that is slow? Our own network at home? Our ISP? What about the time of day, or day of week and so forth? Any one of these or a combination of these can have a dire affect on the speeds we are able to obtain.
What do you think?