Blog Post

The FCC Wants to Test Your Broadband Speed Limit

The Federal Communications Commission wants to know how fast your broadband speed is, so it’s looking for volunteers to install gear that will provide accurate readings of it. In a blog post today the agency said it has chosen SamKnows Ltd., which also worked to establish speed tests for British telecom regulator Ofcom, to help it in its task. The FCC will issue a public notice seeking more input on the process in “the coming days,” and will also detail how people can volunteer to install the gear in “the next few weeks.”

Gathering quality data plays an important role in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, acting as the agency’s only solution to the relative lack of competition in most U.S. broadband markets, so this move to install actual hardware on people’s modems is a big deal.

It’s part of a multipronged effort to gather data on broadband quality, access and speed. Others efforts include getting consumers to go to the FCC’s site to test their speeds and a partnership with comScore, thought that’s been criticized as being fairly unscientific. The agency has also expanded the information it collects from ISPs, but some of its ability to force carriers to give up that information has been thrown in doubt after the FCC lost a legal battle against Comcast (s cmcsa) over its authority to regulate aspects of high-speed Internet access. So this effort and the eventual volunteers might be the FCC’s best hope of gathering data that will stand up to court fights and help defend consumers from anti-competitive practices — at least while the current commissioners are at the FCC and want to fight for consumers.

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3 Responses to “The FCC Wants to Test Your Broadband Speed Limit”

  1. Sassy Lou

    It’s a racket. I wouldn’t trust the FCC as far as i could stretch towards my own privates. The FCC are control freaks..a remnant of an era long ago that is struggling with to keep afloat in the internet age. Regulating people’s free speech and will….while corporations were deregulated how much they could get away with.

    Anyway…any geekophile will tell you anywhere on blogs and youtube…that the U.S. is getting shafted by cable companies while our European counterparts have upload and downloads speeds 3-5 times faster without upload caps. Why do they need to go through all this testing on YOUR MACHINES? Any idiot can go war driving and test various open signals. I bet none will get the fast speeds as the Europeans or Japanese.

  2. Brett Glass

    The SamKnows bid was a “lowball” bid. It isn’t enough to fund a project that would produce meaningful results.

    Think about it: a half decent Internet router, modified to include testing capabilities, would have to cost at least $50. And the project is supposed to test performance in 10,000 households. That’s $500K right there — without accounting for labor, programming, development of tests, distribution of hardware, followup with the customers hosting the test equipment, compilation of results, etc.

    Why didn’t the FCC notice something fishy when it got such a low bid in?