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I've always found that the real speed of internet service never comes close to what is advertised. For example, I'm currently using the basic plan from Time Warner Cable in North Carolina, which promises "up to" 3 MB per second. My download speeds rarely go above 100 KB per second.

Previously, I used Comcast Cable in California, which was a little better but the speed still fell far short of what was advertised.

Are companies basically getting away with this sort of absolute lie as long as they say "up to" a certain speed, and don't promise a particular performance? Or am I missing something here?

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closed as not constructive by bwDraco, Moab, Diogo, slhck, Nifle May 23 '12 at 19:48

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

If they say "up to" then it's not a lie, it's simply a statement that promises nothing and so should be ignored. – Mike Scott May 23 '12 at 13:41
To begin with: do you know the difference between "MB/s" and "Mb/s"? – Daniel Andersson May 23 '12 at 13:41
@MikeScott It's still terrible. And Daniel, regarding the Mbps vs MBps, you're right! facepalm Never even noticed that! – Tianxiang Xiong May 23 '12 at 14:16
With 3Mbps I would expect at least 200 KBps of download, perhaps even 300 KBps or more. – ReyCharles May 23 '12 at 18:31
up vote 1 down vote accepted

First of all, advertised speeds are usually in Mb (note that small b), which stands for Megabits. What you see while you're downloading a file is usually in MB/s (note the capital letter B), which stands for Megabytes per second.

8 Mb ~= 1 MB/s

Appart from that there're also some other factors that play a role. One of them is how far you're from the central. If you're close to the city hall, you're usually good.

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I have heard that 10 Mb/s ~= 1 MB/s is more accurate because of various overhead. – ReyCharles May 23 '12 at 14:15
@ReyCharles Can you provide a trustworthy source of that information? – RobinJ May 23 '12 at 15:25
Not sure how trustworthy this source is but it says »[…]you generally at least 20% […]«. I just searched for "tcp overhead" on google. – ReyCharles May 23 '12 at 18:21

"Up to" means "theoretical maximum of". With all technologies there is a theoretical maximum transfer speed. Some technologies will often reach these (I have a 100/100 Mbps line over optic fiber to the building and I have never seen a deviation from max speed), and some almost never (ADSL is strongly dependent on how far from the station you live, etc. Wireless connections are often a joke in this respect - and add horrific lantecy to that).

In my country there have been some reprimands to companies for advertising like this, because even though it is technically correct, it is misleading for an uninformed customer, and it is not to be expected that a society as a whole should be educated in network technologies on this level.

So to answer your question: "get away with" depends on country and general attitude towards consumer protection and so on.

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