The Federal Communications Commission released the results of a survey on the consumer broadband experience, finding that 80 percent of broadband users in the United States do not know the speed of their broadband connection.

The survey found that no demographic group had good awareness of their home broadband speed (the survey asked specifically about download speed). But there were some demographic differences. For example, 71 percent of men do not know what speed they’re getting, while the figure is 90 percent for women. With respect to age, 73 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 do not know their home broadband speed, while the number goes up to 88 percent of people age 65 and over.

Most Americans are satisfied with the broadband speed they are getting. Fully 91 percent of broadband users say they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the speed they get at home. The comparable number for mobile broadband, which is not yet technologically capable of the same speeds as home broadband, is 71 percent satisfaction. As a point of comparison, 92 percent of cell phone users are very or somewhat satisfied with their cell phone service overall.

The FCC’s survey of consumers, conducted by Abt/SRBI and Princeton Survey Research Associates, International from April 19 to May 2, 2010, interviewed 3,005 American adults. The national random digit dial survey was conducted in English and Spanish and the sample included both landline and cell phones.

The survey is part of the agency’s overall broadband speed initiative, which involves several bureaus and offices and is being coordinated by the Commission’s Consumer Task Force. Through the initiative, the agency will also measure the actual speeds that consumers receive and compare them to the speeds that broadband providers advertise.

To help it determine the broadband speeds consumers are getting in their homes and on their mobile devices, the FCC is asking for 10,000 volunteers to participate in a scientific study to measure home broadband speed in the United States. Specialized hardware will be installed in the homes of volunteers to measure the performance of all the country’s major Internet service providers across geographic regions and service tiers. The FCC is partnering with SamKnows Limited in this effort, the same firm that conducted a similar test in the United Kingdom. This study will culminate in a “State of Broadband” report to be released later this year.

Anyone can register as a volunteer for this national test at www.TestMyISP.com. Volunteers will be able to track the performance of their own broadband service, as well as providing data for the FCC, Internet service providers, and the public at large.

Ultimately, the FCC hopes to develop tests that help each individual consumer in the U.S. determine his or her own broadband speed. The agency took a first step in March by providing two speed tests that consumers can use at home or on their wireless phones. These consumer tests can be found at http://www.broadband.gov/qualitytest/about/. One of the tests is powered by Ookla. (For more, click here).

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