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How the FCC lets your ISP paint a rosy picture of internet speeds

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It may be why internet speeds aren’t as fast as you expect

prison phones FCC Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

It’s an awful feeling realizing that your internet speed is far slower than what your provider promised. But according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission could be doing very little to force providers to live up to their customers’ expectations.

According to the WSJ, companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have worked to influence the reports and have used a variety of tactics over the years to boost their numbers. In doing so, the FCC’s reporting system could be showing connection speeds that are far faster than what customers actually get.

Toward the tail end of the Obama administration, the FCC launched a program called Measuring Broadband America. It’s a yearly review of the speeds providers advertise as available to consumers. The agency compares those speeds to the reality on the ground through its own tests. Its purpose is to ensure that in-home internet service providers follow through on the speeds that they promise to consumers.

The agency isn’t able to run a review on every connection in America, so it’s forced to rely on a predetermined sample of representative homes. But the Journal reported that providers are notified of which households the FCC will test in advance. That gives them plenty of time and room to boost speeds before the agency has a chance to run its tests. It’s something that’s reportedly happened before, with Comcast rolling out speed upgrades in a handful of states around the time of an FCC test.

According to the Journal, other providers convinced the FCC to omit certain unflattering data and blamed some slower speeds on “faulty equipment.”

The whole purpose of the Measuring Broadband America reports was to ensure that customers receive the speeds they pay for, but if providers are able to game the system like as was described by the Journal, these reviews only favor the pocketbooks of some of the most powerful companies in America.