FCC launches broadband test site for consumers

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has added tools to the Broadband.gov Web site to help users measure their broadband speeds or report that they do not have broadband available.

The FCC announced Thursday that it has added new features called the Consumer Broadband Test and the Broadband Dead Zone Report to Broadband.gov.

"Transparency empowers consumers, promotes innovation and investment, and encourages competition," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "The FCC's new digital tools will arm users with real-time information about their broadband connection and the agency with useful data about service across the country. By informing consumers about their broadband service quality, these tools help eliminate confusion and make the market work more effectively."

The Consumer Broadband Test measures broadband quality indicators such as speed and latency and reports that information to consumers and the FCC. A mobile version of the app, the first mobile app released by the FCC, is also available through the Apple and Android app stores.

The Consumer Broadband Test uses two popular broadband testing tools: the Ookla Speed Test and the Network Diagnostic Tool, running on the Measurement Lab (M-Lab) platform. The FCC plans to offer additional broadband testing tools in the future, the agency said in a press release.

The Network Diagnostic Tool is an open-source tool created by Internet2 researchers and running on the M-Lab platform, an open, distributed server infrastructure developed for researchers to deploy Internet measurement systems. M-Lab was founded by the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, the PlanetLab Consortium, Google and academic researchers.

"The Network Diagnostic Tool released by the FCC will collect important information about the true state of broadband in the United States," Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative, said in a statement.

The Broadband Dead Zone Reporting Form is designed to allow U.S. residents to report areas of the country that do not have broadband services available. People using the broadband reporting tool at Broadband.gov are asked if they have broadband at home and if they would be interested in subscribing if broadband was available. They are also asked to provide their address.

U.S. residents can also e-mail the FCC at fccinfo@fcc.gov to report on broadband availability or call 1-888-CALL-FCC, among other methods.

The FCC will use the data gathered from the tools to analyze broadband performance and availability, the agency said. Consumers' privacy will be protected, the FCC said.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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