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 cable 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 Time Warner Cable (TWC), specifically as related to speed increases and delivery.
Billshark’s research showed TWC increasing its speed from 50 Mbps to 300 Mbps in just three years, from 2012 to 2014 (the latest year for which figures are available). These, however, are advertised speeds. The FCC report shows 2011-2015 median download speeds for TWC are actually 38 Mbps. (The median speed across all consumers for 2016 is 39 Mbps.) The FCC explains discrepancies among all ISPs measured as possibly being caused by such factors as geographic differences and network surges at varying times throughout the day.
“The allegations in today’s lawsuit confirm what millions of New Yorkers have long suspected — Spectrum-TWC has been ripping you off,” New York Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement, claiming that Spectrum-TWC had misled consumers in promising Internet speeds they could not deliver. After 16 months of investigation, Schneiderman’s office found that hundreds of thousands of speed tests showed that customers were “getting dramatically short-changed on both speed and reliability” by as much as 80 percent. Parent company Charter Communications, which recently merged with Spectrum-TWC, defended its New York record, saying the alleged conduct occurred prior to the merger, and that it has made significant upgrades since.
PC Magazine analyzed the results of speed tests taken by its readers, and in August 2016 ranked TWC fourth in ISPs, among 10 major ISPs in the U.S. When all U.S. ISPs were included, TWC ranked ninth out of 10. (Charter Spectrum ranked eighth among the 10 largest; it did not make the top 10 out of all ISPs.)
Thus, Time Warner Cable appears to have much work to do if its advertised speeds are to match real users’ experience.