Broadband.gov – Testing Connection Speeds

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    The FCC has recently rolled out an ambitious plan to dramatically improve broadband access and speed across the country.  One of the primary goals that should get everyone’s attention is to achieve “actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits” for 100 million+ homes.  And the key word “affordable” is repeated in almost every goal.   The entire National Broadband Plan can be found at http://www.broadband.gov.  There are a lot of good ideas in there.

    But this post isn’t about the plan in general, just a specific aspect – the viewing and collection of download speed data.   Under the heading of Consumer Broadband Test on the site you can test your current internet connection speed.  The stated purpose:

    The purpose of the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta) is to give consumers additional information about the quality of their broadband connections and to create awareness about the importance of broadband quality in accessing content and services over the internet. Additionally, the FCC may use data collected from the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta), along with submitted street address, to analyze broadband quality and availability on a geographic basis across the United States.

    I highly encourage everyone to participate (at least give it one try) for two reasons:

    1. It’ll give you some information about your download speeds.  It probably won’t come as a big surprise, but to see some actual numbers against what you’re paying your internet provider for could be eye opening.  

    2. If you’re not paranoid about the government (yes, they do ask for your location) spying on you, this will give the FCC valuable information to help them move the National Plan along.

    Wait, there’s more…

    If you have an iPhone or an Android based smart phone you can do the same test for them from anywhere.  

    For kicks I downloaded the iPhone version and so far it’s told me that AT&T isn’t doing a great job in the D.C. area.  Check out some data points from random tests I’ve done the past two weeks (all speeds in Mbps):

    Download Upload
    1.00 0.02
    0.37 0.05
    1.11 0.33
    0.41 0.05
    0.86 0.28
    1.13 0.22
    0.18 0.08

    Compared to Chicago (where I had a chance to test briefly last weekend).

    Download Upload
    1.48 0.23
    1.87 0.21

    Uploads weren’t great in the Windy City, but the two download data points smoked the average I’m getting around D.C.

    Not ground breaking (yet), but overall this is an ambitious and potentially awesome plan and I recommend everyone at least check it out.  And participate with the data collection if you can.