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Analysis: millions of Americans not getting the ‘Net speed they’re paying for

Approximately 15% of United States Internet users, which equates to about 45 million people, are not getting the speeds that they’re paying for, according to Internet, home security, TV and electricity information provider Allconnect. Cable and fiber are the most common home Internet connections in the U.S., but also the most likely to underperform. Many customers are only getting a quarter of the speeds they’re paying for. Meanwhile, satellite, DSL and fixed wireless providers promote more modest speeds than cable and fiber counterparts but are more likely to deliver on their promises. These connection types tend to deliver faster speeds than they advertise, according to Allconnect’s data.

Allconnect’s data revealed a significant gap between Internet speeds that providers advertise and the speeds their customers are experiencing. Home Internet connections in the U.S. are typically in the neighborhood of 80 Mbps of download speed. While that number is high, it’s lower than Internet service providers promise their customers when they sign up. The download speed that’s advertised for an average American Internet plan in 101 Mbps, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data. That means the 80 Mbps of download speed customers experience is just 79% of the speed they’re paying for.

Cable and fiber speeds are less than advertised; DSL, satellite and fixed wireless are faster

Fiber Internet and cable are most responsible for the gap between advertised and actual speeds, according to Allconnect. Major ISPs like Verizon and Xfinity promote fiber plans that reach, “gig speed”, which is 1,000 Mbps. In reality fiber Internet plans advertise 220 Mbps of download speeds, but only hit 75 Mbps in practice. There’s less of a gap with cable Internet connections, however. Advertisements promise 160 Mbps on average, when they typically deliver 126 Mbps.

In rural areas, cable and fiber Internet isn’t always an option. The alternatives like slower DSL, satellite or fixed wireless connections often reached their advertised speeds, however. Sometimes DSL, satellite and fixed wireless users experience faster speeds than what they’re paying for, according to Allconnect. For example, fixed wireless connection users are advertised 32 Mbps download speeds on average, but received 72 Mbps—which is almost as fast as the fiber Internet connections in Allconnect’s analysis.

Allconnect vs. FCC, whose data is right?

Allconnect acknowledged its internal data showed that cable and fiber Internet providers advertise faster speeds than they deliver, while the FCC’s report showed the opposite. According to Allconnect, the disparity stems from the number of Internet providers each party evaluated. The FCC evaluated 10 Internet providers in its most recent report and the participants all had to choose to be part of the Measuring Broadband America program. Companies like AT&T did not take part this year. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that FCC’s figures were inflated—the FCC informs ISPs of which customers will be part of the test, allowing them to provide faster speeds to those homes.

On the other hand, Allconnect relied on more than 60,000 Internet connections recorded over several months.

“While the FCC determined that, for most major providers, ‘measured download speeds were 100% or better than advertised speeds,’ our results weren’t quite so rosy,” Allconnect wrote. “We determined that 15% of users weren’t getting the speeds they paid for, and the average internet connection in the country was 21 Mbps slower than advertised.”

Joe Dyton can be reached at

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