Upload speed matters and it’s too slow, say consumers

by Steve Blum • , ,

Minimum acceptable upload speed.

Consumer upload speed expectations exceed the ability of Internet service providers to deliver, at least in Morgan Hill, a town on the southern edge of Silicon Valley. Tellus Venture Associates just completed an analysis of Morgan Hill’s telecommunications infrastructure, which was presented to the city council last Wednesday.

In the course of doing that study, we conducted an online consumer survey that attracted more than 500 responses. One of the questions we asked was “what do you consider to be the minimum acceptable upload speed for Internet service?” Of the 400 respondents who chose to answer this question, 84% picked a speed of 6 Mbps or faster.

The breakout was:

Minimum acceptable download speed%
1.5 Mbps or less2%
3 Mbps14%
6 Mbps25%
10 Mbps31%
25 Mbps28%

The kicker is that, at the time, residential broadband service in Morgan Hill was provided by Charter Communications and Verizon (Frontier has since taken over ownership and operation of Verizon’s wireline system there). Neither company meets the 6 Mbps threshold: Charter’s residential service maxes out at 5 Mbps upload speed and the best Verizon can do is 1 Mbps – that’s not just in Morgan Hill; that’s best either company can do anywhere in California.

What’s more, upload speed standards set at the state and federal level don’t match Morgan Hill residents’ expectations. The Federal Communications Commission considers 3 Mbps upload speed to be the minimum necessary to use advanced services, and the California Public Utilities Commission considers an area as “served” by broadband if upload speeds of at least 1.5 Mbps are available.

After the report was presented, the city council heard from representatives of the business community who also consider the standard service options that are available in Morgan Hill to be inadequate, pointing out that the major employers in town – Specialized Bicycles and Anritsu, a telecoms test equipment maker, were examples – need to ship high volumes of design, testing and business data out of town. Indeed, that’s their primary business.