Cable Broadband Networks Continue to Outperform
Article | January 6, 2021
The cable industry has been at the forefront of reporting how well its broadband networks have performed in delivering and accommodating the unprecedented surges in traffic that occurred when COVID-19 closed down businesses and schools, and as working, learning, and healthcare all shifted to residential networks instantaneously. Other reports from SamKnows and Ookla (speedtest.net) also document how well broadband networks have performed during the coronavirus pandemic. Another more recent data point arrived with the new year with the release of the latest FCC Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program report. The MBA program is administered by SamKnows, the world's foremost authority on broadband performance testing. In utilizing a hardware-based measurement methodology, the MBA program controls for network factors and is thus able to render the most accurate measurements of the performance of broadband local access networks. A variety of network factors can adversely influence non hardware-based online performance testing results, resulting in measurements that don't reflect the actual level of service that ISPs are delivering to their customers. These network factors can include cross-talk, home Wi-Fi issues, and other equipment-related issues or bottlenecks occurring on the home network. As a result, hardware-based programs such as SamKnows appropriately isolate out these non-network factors in order to better measure the service that network providers are offering. The Tenth Measuring Broadband America Report provides an update on the performance of residential broadband services measured during September and October of 2019. The report's findings, which are derived from more than 10 billion test measurements, underscore that the U.S. enjoys a robust, growing, and competitive broadband marketplace. Again, the latest report demonstrates that cable broadband providers are delivering speeds that consistently exceeded advertised levels. During peak periods (7pm to 11pm), the FCC found that, on average, cable-based services delivered 117% of advertised downstream speeds and 111% of advertised upstream speeds. The Tenth MBA Report also revealed that the weighted average advertised speed for cable ISPs in 2019 was 155 Mbps, a 12% increase from 2018 and an 83% increase from 2017. The bottom line is that NCTA's members are offering robust high-quality broadband services and their networks are delivering the performance that consumers expect. Developing the Measuring Broadband America program into a reliable source of data on broadband performance has required significant collaborative efforts by FCC staff, SamKnows, industry participants, and other stakeholders. We think these efforts are worthwhile because they enable the Commission and stakeholders to undertake fact-based analyses of broadband performance and to chart our steady progress in improving network performance over time.