For those who’ve been using the Internet long enough to remember the interminable wait times associated with dial-up modems, you’ll know that Internet speeds have come a long way since then. And they get faster every month.
The advent of broadband put us all light-years ahead of the days when you couldn’t make or receive phone calls because your phone line was tied up sending and receiving data, which crawled across your screen like a lazy snail. And in the last ten years, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have made enormous progress in increasing speeds.
As Billshark reported recently (Speed Test Your Internet Device Here), faster Internet speeds aren’t just a nice-to-have perk. They are crucial if you’re going to download or upload any type of data, which is pretty much everything you do on the Internet. Unfortunately, not all ISPs are equal when it comes to delivering the speed they’ve promised or that you’re paying for.
In December 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the latest in its reports as part of its Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program to study directly measured consumer broadband performance throughout the United States. A summary of its key findings reported that
“maximum advertised download speeds amongst the most popular service tiers offered by ISPs have increased from 12-30 Mbps in March 2011 (when the program first launched) to 100-300 Mbps in September 2015. These increases are not uniform across access technologies and have been driven primarily by the CableTV industry, with smaller increases in fiber based systems. Average DSL speeds have increased only slightly over these years and satellite speeds, over a shorter time interval, have remained constant.”
In the coming weeks, Billshark will be presenting information on the latest speed test results for the top ISPs in the country, which will allow you to better gauge the performance of your own ISP, and the value you receive for your broadband dollar. To speed test your own ISP, click here.
This time we will focus on AT&T’s U-verse, specifically as related to speed increases and delivery.
First of all, U-verse is now officially called AT&T Internet, though many long-time users still use the old name, and all of the research referred to herein relates specifically to U-verse.
Billshark’s research shows U-verse nearly doubling its advertised speed in just three years, from 24 Mbps in 2010 to 45 Mbps in 2013, the most recent figure available. For DSL service, this speed would be quite respectable, if it held true. The FCC report, however, measured median download speeds for AT&T’s DSL service as less than 5 Mbps in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available. PC Magazine’s 2016 online testing by its readers, however, reveals U-verse coming in at 23.8 Mbps in its South Central U.S. market, slower than its advertised speed, but much better than the FCC test. It clocks in slightly better in its Southeast U.S. market, at 25.8 Mbps.
Historically, DSL signals, sent over telephone lines, have been slower than cable speeds, but in general DSL is making every effort to catch up, and U-verse seems to be making strides towards closing the gap. And it does stack up well against its other DSL competitors, offering speeds at least three or four times as fast as such other DSL services as Verizon DSL and Frontier DSL, for example.
The problem arises when customers are paying for 45 Mbps of service but receive less than that—sometimes much less. AT&T also has a reputation for poor customer service, which does not seem to have improved much despite its merger with DirecTV, which historically has performed well in this area.