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 broadband.gov 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 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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