Can Internet Providers Guarantee the Indicated Speed?

Can Internet Providers Guarantee the Indicated Speed?

Sat, Nov 11, 2023 1:54 AM

Internet Deals

When shopping for a new internet plan, one of the most important specifications is download and upload speeds. Providers advertise plans of 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1 Gig, etc. But can they realistically deliver those speeds constantly? In this article, we'll explore what factors impact internet speeds and whether guarantees are reasonable.


Speed Indicators are Estimates

First, it's important to understand that advertised speeds from providers are just speed indicators or estimates of potential performance under ideal conditions. According to the FCC, providers couldn't claim to "guarantee" speeds as no network operates flawlessly with variables always at play. So, while marketing may imply guarantees, in the fine print, it's made clear that these are the maximum potential speeds.


Many Factors Affect Speeds

There are numerous factors that influence the internet speeds an individual home receives versus the advertised indicators:


Distance from Central Office or Node

Speed slows the farther the connection has to travel. Those within a mile generally get closer to maximums.


Network Congestion

More users online during peak times like evenings slows down bandwidth available to each customer. Speed tests done late nights are unrealistic of normal performance.


Wireless Interference

Walls, electrical wiring, other devices like baby monitors or microwaves can interfere with WiFi signal strength and slow wireless speeds within the home versus a wired test.


Equipment Limitations

Using dated routers and modems, or WiFi cards, isn't capable of achieving top speeds even with a high-speed internet plan. Upgrading hardware boosts performance.


Network Outages & Maintenance

Unavoidable outages, repairs, or planned maintenance downtime reduce speeds briefly for troubleshooting and improvements.

Understanding these variables helps customers manage speed expectations. Guaranteeing them perfectly would require providers to account for all unknown variables, which isn't realistic or financially feasible. That said, they do have obligations to transparency and reliability that we'll explore next.


FCC Guidelines on Internet Advertising

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission enacted stronger rules on internet service providers to ensure clear, consistent information is presented to consumers nationwide regarding services being purchased:


Advertised speeds must be achievable by a “typical” user. This requires testing under normal operations and not under lab conditions. If speeds aren’t meeting advertised amounts for typical users after a suitable trial period, consumers should be informed.

  • Disclosures about speed variability must be clear. Information about real-world versus maximum speeds and common factors affecting them needs to be obvious, avoiding misleading ads.

  • Specific speeds must be clear in promotions. Plans referred to as “fast” or “high-speed” no longer meet guidelines; - specific minimum Mbps must be indicated.

  • Speed test results must be easy access. Providers must show customers how their connection compares to what was marketed to help understand service quality.

  • Transparency is about network management. Throttling, data caps, and other practices that may impact speeds or usage need open disclosure. Customers deserve to know what they’re paying for.


Validating Speeds & Seeking Resolution

So while guarantees may not be realistic, these rules help ensure customers can validate the advertised plan's performance in their specific location:


Perform Speed Tests

Use the provider's troubleshooting site, third-party options like, or test via Tests at different times provide an average for comparison.

Related: Interpreting Your Internet Speed Test Results

Check Equipment and WiFi Settings

Update routers, modem firmware or try connecting directly if wireless speed tests underperform. Make sure 5G WiFi is enabled if supported for devices.


Contact the Provider

Discuss testing results to determine if speeds have not met advertised amounts for your location after validating equipment. Ask about service adjustments or plan options based on needs and network infrastructure.


Request Discounts or Cancel

If ongoing issues can't be resolved, request prorated bill credits, promotions, or a reduced speed or rate. As a last resort, look at changing providers within the 30-day window if transfer is supported.

Overall, providers aim to deliver quality connections, while transparency builds trust with customers. With informed expectations and validation tools in place, consumers can feel empowered to get the internet service best suited to their individual requirements. But patience and understanding network dynamics is important when choosing a plan and provider.


In conclusion, while no law requires guaranteed internet speeds to the byte, rules mandate honest, accountable marketing to support fully informed customer decisions. Utilizing validation resources helps customers confirm typical performance aligns with what their chosen provider aims to deliver for their location.


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