All major US ISPs are providing connection speeds below broadband, according to a damning report from independent internet connection measuring organization Measurement Lab (M-Lab). The report, which was released Tuesday, studies connections between ISPs, and finds that under-provisioning is a causal factor in US customers receiving speeds during peak hours below the 4mbps that the FCC defines as “broadband speed,” while innocent technical problems are not.
M-Lab is an open analysis organization which measures internet connection quality and detects censorship, technical faults and network neutrality violations.
The report “ISP Interconnection and its Impacton Consumer Internet Performance” (PDF) calls interconnection “both definitive of the internet, and a manifestation of a business relationship between two ISPs.” It studies the 2013 and 2014 broadband performance of Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, and Time Warner Cable, and finds major performance degradation from all five.
“We see the same patterns of degradation manifest in disparate locations across the US,” the report concludes. “Locations that it would be hard to imagine share any significant infrastructure (Los Angeles and New York City, for example). We thus conclude that the business relationships between impacted Access ISP/Transit pairs is a factor in the repeated patterns of performance degradation observed throughout this research.”
While slow speeds are most common during the peak hours of 7pm to 11pm, the report also notes sub-4mbps speeds at other times, and sometimes for protracted periods in certain areas and networks.
The report mentions the possibility of a third party (other than the two ISPs in a given connection) being involved in the interconnection, and therefore possibly to blame for its slowness, though the consistency of the findings suggests that the problem is not specific to a certain contract or set of connections.
In a dispute between Netflix and Verizon this summer over alleged throttling, Verizon reported that they had reviewed their network and found no congestion, a contention flatly disproved by the M-Lab report. Under-provisioning was specifically alleged during that dispute.
The report results also support the findings of the FCC when it found in June that most major US broadband companies fail to deliver advertised speeds.