US Oblivious To USENET Broadband Speed

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A new survey indicates that most Americans are pretty clueless when it comes to the speed of their Internet subscription. Four out of five have absolutely no idea what it is.

The survey comes after separate findings by the agency that the actual speeds experienced by consumers are as low as half of what providers advertised. Those results, from a ComScore survey early this year, were announced by the FCC’s task force assigned to create its national broadband plan. In an effort to keep broadband providers honest, the agency through its broadband speed initiative plans to compare the speeds consumers get against what broadband providers actually advertise.

But apparently this did not stop that same vast majority of consumers who answered the agency’s questionnaire from reporting that they were either “very satisfied” (50 percent) or “somewhat satisfied” (41 percent) with their connections. Despite the fact that they couldn’t even disclose the speed of that very or somewhat satisfying link, 71 percent assured the government that their connection is “as fast as the provider promises at least most of the time.

These reported plateaus of technological savvy seem to cross all demographic boundaries. Seventy-one percent of men did not know their advertised speed, the FCC says; neither did 90 percent of women. Seventy-three percent of 18-29 year olds were in the dark regarding this matter; so were 88 percent of those 65 years and older. Same for the 79 percent of whites and 87 percent of African Americans. Income had little effect on the numbers.

After ranking third in the world a decade ago, the U.S. has dropped to 15th in the proportion of citizens receiving fast Web service, or broadband, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. South Korea, Iceland and Germany are among the countries that ranked higher in 2009, the Paris-based group says. Connections were both faster and cheaper in 12 countries, including Hungary and Denmark.

Countries that rank higher than the U.S. tend to be densely populated, use subsidies, and promote computer use, said Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which studies innovation policy. “The U.S. is behind because we’re a big, spread-out country with lots of people who don’t own computers,” Atkinson said in an interview.

The FCC has been stepping up its efforts in the regulation and understanding of data connection and communication usage in the US. It recently launched a new initiative to get mobile service providers to provide more info to customers that are in danger of receiving huge cell phone bills. In March, the FCC unveiled an Internet speed test tool at for consumers to clock the speed of their connection.

This study will become the foundation for the FCC’s “State of Broadband” report later this year.

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