June 2, 2010 - 1:54 pm
Joel Gurin | Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau

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Our survey report on broadband speed yesterday attracted national attention and some additional questions. We've been asked for more detail on our findings about customer satisfaction with broadband speed. As we reported, 91 percent of fixed broadband customers are "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with that service, compared to 71 percent who are satisfied with the speed of mobile broadband. A closer look gives a fuller picture.

For fixed broadband, 50 percent of customers were very satisfied with the service overall, 41 percent were somewhat satisfied, 6 percent were "not too" satisfied, and 3 percent were not satisfied at all.

For mobile broadband, we asked specifically about satisfaction with speed, a slightly different question. Here, the numbers were lower: 33 percent very satisfied, 38 percent somewhat satisfied, 8 percent not too satisfied, and 5 percent not satisfied at all. (The other 14 percent said they didn't know.)

What to make of these numbers? A few things.

First, consumers are fairly well satisfied with the speed of the broadband they get at home. Having 50 percent say they are "very satisfied" is a strong showing, although it still leaves room for improvement. Even if people are satisfied with their home broadband speed, however, they may be paying hundreds of dollars a year more than they need to. Consumers still need better information to know what speed they need for the applications they run. And given the split between "very" and "somewhat" satisfied customers, more information on broadband speed would also help consumers choose between different providers.

For mobile broadband, the lower numbers show that this service still has a way to go to improve customer satisfaction — which is especially important as more people turn to mobile for their primary Internet connection. It's technologically harder to deliver high speeds by mobile, so the satisfaction gap between fixed and mobile broadband is understandable. But consider that satisfaction with mobile service overall — not broadband speed specifically — is quite high, with 59 percent very satisfied and 33 percent somewhat so. A decade ago, that satisfaction rate might have been hard to imagine. The wireless industry has made tremendous strides in innovation and service quality overall, and we can expect improvements in mobile broadband speed as well.

Accurate measurements of mobile broadband speed can be a boost to innovation. These measures can help wireless carriers learn more about where their networks function best and where they may fall short. Most consumers now have a choice of mobile broadband providers, and will be able to use these new measures to choose the providers who will serve them best. Consumer choice, in turn, can increase competition, innovation, and ultimately help lead to better broadband service for all.

[Cross-posted on Blogband]