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Consumer Broadband Test Update

March 17th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

Thanks to the over 150,000 unique users who have taken over 300,000 Consumer Broadband Tests, as well as the nearly 4,000 addresses submitted to the broadband Dead Zone Report. The popularity of the consumer tools has exceeded our expectations.We’ve made some text changes to the short “About” section found on a tab below the Consumer Broadband Test Tool. Some users have been confused by the differences between the two testing platforms presented by the FCC – Ookla and M-Lab – and this section explains the variability

Over the weekend, the FCC also updated both the Android and iPhone FCC Apps to improve the user experience.  The FCC App can be found by searching for “FCC” in either the Android or iPhone App store.

The FCC chose to use two testing applications for the Beta version of the Consumer Broadband Test.  The two applications are among the most popular on the Internet and the FCC hopes to make available additional testing platforms in the future. However, software based broadband testing is not an exact science and contains inherent variability, as described in the About section.  This is why the FCC will also be conducting a hardware based scientific study of broadband quality across the country.  See this recent blog post about this venture, and the RFQ here.  The FCC will use the results of this hardware study for analytical purposes. The results of the software bases testing (see data below) are interesting and show broad trends, but the FCC is not relying on the data for analytical purposes.

Here are the user experienced differences between the two testing platforms:

 

 
Metric
M-LAB
OOKLA
 Average Download Speed (mbps)
7.04
11.5
 Median Download Speed (mbps)
3.95
8.14
 Average Upload Speed (mbps)
2.74
2.09
 Median Upload Speed (mbps)
0.87
1.01
 
You will see that Ookla provides a higher overall average and median speed than M-Lab.  This is likely due to the different methodologies these testing applications use.  The difference comes from the fact that broadband speeds vary over time, even within a single second. Ookla measures peak performance and ignores short periods of slow speed, which it considers to be speed bumps in performance, while M-Lab takes many rapid speed measurements and averages them all. For more detail, see the Ookla and M-Lab methodology sections.  Additionally, Ookla and M-Lab each have testing servers geographically distributed across the country.  Individual’s proximity to these testing servers could also affect testing results.
 
Although software based testing cannot provide users with a 100% reliable measures of broadband quality, the FCC makes these tools available as they provide comparative and relative real-time performance information and helps the FCC collect broadband availability data.
 
Here are some interesting data and maps from the first six days of the Consumer Broadband Test. This data is derived from the results of both testing applications.
 
 
As you can see, 87% of test takers are home users, which is the FCC’s target audience with this application. Additionally, a clear trend is visible across business sizes, high bandwidth connectivity for community institutions, and lower bandwidth for mobile connections. Again, these results are non-scientific extrapolations from the Beta version of the Consumer Broadband test. Additionally, about 98% of user submitted addresses are geo-coding correctly, which is a very good rate.
 
Given that this is the Beta version, we want to hear from you about additional features we can add to this interface.  We already have some internal plans to rollout an updated version in the near future that provides greater context to users about the meaning of their testing results.  So please reply to this blog with your suggestions!

Transparency in Broadband Performance - iPhone Apps, Broadband Tests, and other cool new tools...

March 11th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

As Joel Gurin previewed in his March 5th post, today the FCC launched a set of digital tools -- the Consumer Broadband Test and the Broadband Dead Zone Report -- enabling consumers to test their broadband service and report areas where broadband is not available for purchase at their household.

The FCC Consumer Broadband Test, currently in beta, allows users to measure the quality of their broadband connections in real-time for both fixed and mobile broadband.   The broadband test measures broadband quality indicators such as speed and latency, and reports that information to consumers and the FCC.  Test your broadband quality now at www.broadband.gov, or download the new FCC Broadband Test app in the Apple and Android App stores now for free.

Here is a screenshot of the FCC Mobile Broadband Test on the iPhone:

In addition to reporting broadband performance to users, these tools enable the FCC to gather data to help the agency analyze broadband performance and availability on a geographic basis across the United States.  (Read more information on privacy considerations here.)  In the future, the FCC anticipates making additional broadband testing applications available for consumer use and across different mobile platforms. The FCC does not endorse any specific testing application.

The National Broadband Plan, which will be unveiled next week, also contains a series of recommendations aimed at helping consumers understand the gap between actual broadband speeds delivered and the maximum speed tiers advertised. Working recommendations include a scientific third-party study on actual broadband performance, a working group to help inform standards for broadband speeds, and further proposals on disclosure needs for fixed broadband services, such as a “digital label.” These proposals will further the goals of disclosure and transparency and empower consumers to drive competition in a technology-neutral manner.
 
I hope consumers take advantage of the tools made available today.  As these tests are currently launched in Beta version, we seek the public’s input on additional features, testing metrics and testing platforms that can be added in the future.



Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones