By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An annual report card on how well Internet service providers meet or exceed advertised broadband speeds has placed Verizon Communications Inc and Cablevision Systems Corp at the top of the class.
Overall, the 13 top U.S. broadband providers, representing four-fifths of all U.S. landline broadband connections, are coming much closer to consistently delivering their advertised speeds, the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday.
U.S. broadband speeds on average are within 90 percent of what they promote, up from within 80 percent when the FCC issued its initial report last year.
FCC analysis concluded that the improvements were mostly due to greater investments and upgrades to broadband networks, not downward adjustments in advertised speeds.
Broadband customers, on average, subscribed to faster speed tiers and experienced actual speeds nearly 38 percent faster than a year ago, the FCC said. Consumers spent more time online and using more data-intensive services, like video streaming, the agency added.
During peak consumer usage hours when networks are busiest, actual download speeds varied from 120 percent to 79 percent of advertised speed among the different ISPs.
Verizon's fiber network, Cablevision, Comcast Corp, Mediacom Communications and Charter Communications Inc all routinely delivered nearly 100 percent or greater of the speed advertised, even during the hours of highest demand, the FCC said.
Cablevision had been last year's worst performer, delivering just 54 percent of its advertised speed during peak hours.
Frontier Communications Corp was at the bottom of the pack in the latest FCC report, but it still delivered 79 percent of advertised performance, reflecting the general improvement.
Frontier spokeswoman Christy Reap said the company tripled its size two years ago to cover more rural areas, and has, and will, continue to make investments to increase speed and capacity.
The FCC said the U.S. market is moving toward the agency's goal of having at least 100 million homes with affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second by 2015, and 100 Mbps by 2020, the FCC said.
Actual speeds experienced by consumers increased to 14.6 Mbps from 10.6 Mbps a year ago, according to the report. Speeds from 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps are used to stream standard video, while consumers wanting to watch full high-definition video online need speeds upwards of 5 Mbps.
The FCC said it will conduct more testing this fall and release another report by the end of the year.
"To realize the full power of broadband's potential, we must continue to see increases in broadband speed and capacity and decreases in per gigabit costs," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.
The ISPs in the FCC study, ranked by performance as a percentage of advertised speed, were: Verizon's fiber network (120 percent), Cablevision (120 percent), Comcast (103 percent), Mediacom (100 percent), Charter (98 percent), Time Warner Cable Inc (96 percent), Cox Communications (95 percent), Insight Communications Co (92 percent), CenturyLink Inc (89 percent), AT&T Inc (87 percent), Verizon's DSL network (87 percent), Windstream Corp (84 percent), Qwest Communications (83 percent) and Frontier (79 percent).
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)