Although we’ve come to expect less than we pay for with broadband Internet providers, the actual numbers are outrageous.
According to an analysis of Netflix streaming and advertised bandwidth, providers are outright screwing their customers. In the United States, for example, the average advertised Internet bandwidth in 2012 was 16.8 megabits per second, but the customers paying for all that bandwidth got to stream Netflix videos at an average pace of only 1.85 Mbps that year.
Netflix adjusts its streams to accommodate subscribers’ connections, and while this study isn’t a perfect measure of the health of a connection, it strongly indicates that something is amiss.
Of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised: The lawyers at the telecoms generally note in the fine print that actual performance may vary. Streaming video like Netflix also doesn’t capture all types of internet traffic. Still, this is a meaningful metric—Netflix is among the reasons that people actually pay for broadband. (Streaming Netflix movies make up 33% of US web traffic at peaks times, for instance.)
In the United States, at least, the FCC says the average US internet service provider delivers 96% of the speed advertised during peak hours. But at the same time, most Americans use internet connections that should provide better performance.