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The FCC Wants You! (to Test Your Broadband Speed)

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The Federal Communications Commission today released results of a broadband survey which found that 80 percent of the 3,035 respondents don’t know the actual broadband speed to their homes, yet 91 percent are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied by the speeds. To that end, the FCC is continuing with previously announced plans to deploy hardware from SamKnows Ltd. that measures actual connection speeds in the homes of volunteers. The FCC is looking to mobilize an army of 10,000 recruits around the country — consumers can apply for admission to the test at a special website that’s now live.

I like the FCC’s hardware approach better than the strategy of speed testing over a web connection. The prior software method, provided by Ookla, often returns widely varying results for my 20 Mbps home FiOS connection. The results are dependent on the server used for testing and based on a single activity during a snapshot in time. In contrast, the hardware approach will place a box between a consumer’s home network and a provider’s network to measure the constant end-user throughput from the Internet service provider. All activities, including audio downloads, video streaming and basic web browsing, will be captured by the hardware over time, offering more accurate results.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user pfly

6 Responses to “The FCC Wants You! (to Test Your Broadband Speed)”

  1. I think this is a waste of resources. The government, as usual, is late to the party. The only reason I have home service is because my wife works for the cable company. Mobile is the thriving market for internet. I believe that 5-10 years will show cable/dsl going the way of telephone landlines; a niche market.

  2. Would gigaOM like to comment on the results that show “91 percent are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied”?

    Most of articles on this site keep supporting gov’t intervention in the market because the market (cableco, telco, etc) is so wrong.

    It seems that the market is doing a great job and I can’t imagine gov’t intervention will bring up the scores.

    • As someone who is usually against gov. intervention. The problem here is that in most places we have 2 monopolies which customers can go through to get internet. You’re either going to Comcast (Time Warner in some areas), or AT&T. There are 3rd options but they’re rare.

      While I think gov. should stay out of the market as far as what those companies can do on their lines (with the exception of net neutrality) I think that we need something to happen in the area of the monopolies.

      And when i say “net neutrality” what I mean is I don’t want comcast or at&t cutting content deals that say “well you’ll get more bandwidth to use CNN because they’re our news partner” or something similar.

      • mhuyck

        A market with only two producers is a duopoly. In Cambridge, MA, where I lived until recently, our choices were Comcast or Verizon (DSL). Verizon abandoned Hanover, NH, where I now live, so we have Comcast or the almost-defunct (by some reports) FairPoint. The speeds offered via DSL are not keeping up with what Comcast is rolling out in both areas, so if you are looking for the fastest downloads then you’ve segmented yourself into Comcast’s monopoly corner of the market.

        We desperately need more competition for internet service in most areas of the US. Until then, regulation is our only option for minimizing the gouging that Comcast already inflicts.

    • I’m an “old school conservative” from the time when Ronald Reagan was still a semi-successful movie star and appreciate the magic of the invisible hand. But I’m also the first to admit that the absolute preconditions of a functional market are that it be fair, competitive, open, and transparent.

      Al, I thing you totally miss the mark here. The article isn’t about intervention, it’s about collecting data. If the results show that consumers are getting what they pay for, I think you would be one of the first to praise the study as evidence the market is working. On the other hand, are you dismissing the study before it even begins as a preemptive strike because the results might contradict your ideology?