The Federal Communications Commission's annual "state of the union" on ISP and broadband performance shows most Internet providers are offering speeds as advertised -- while others are offering Internet access at speeds that exceed consumer expectation.
On the whole, ISPs are reaching 96 percent of advertised speeds during peak hours, up by 9 percent on a year ago. Older technologies, such as DSL, are being outshone by more reliable cable and fiber service -- to the extent that fiber customers in particular are getting more than they actually pay for.
DSL remains high at the bottom of the list with 84 percent of the advertised speeds, while cable saw an average of 99 percent. Fiber saw the greatest advertised average download speed at 117 percent of advertised speeds during peak hours. All three services saw improvements on last year's results.
The FCC said that greater investments in infrastructure and network upgrades helped improve overall network speeds. "Accurate delivery of advertised performance by ISPs has improved overall," the report noted.
Verizon and Cablevision customers are at the top of the list of improved services, the FCC report says.
Cablevision saw the worst performance in 2011 reaching just 54 percent of peak time average download speeds, but customers who stuck around will have seen that loyalty pay off; its broadband users are now seeing greater than advertised download speeds, on par with Verizon fiber (FiOS) customers.
Nearly every ISP is doing a better job this year than last year of delivering actual performance consistent with advertised performance than they did a year ago, the FCC said.
Having said that, the downside is that the range varies between a high of 120 percent of advertised speed to a low of 77 percent, meaning some still only get around three-quarters of the speed they expected when they signed up to the broadband service in the first place.
In terms of average broadband speed, Verizon fiber (FiOS) and Cablevision remain at the top of the charts, reaching 42Mbps and 56Mbps respectively.
Average consumer broadband speeds rose to 14.6Mbps from 10.6Mbps a year ago.
The FCC said it will continue its testing and release another report by year's end.