The FCC will enlist the public in monitoring the speed and availability of broadband via its first mobile app.
Both the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration are charged with mapping out where broadband is, and isn't, as part of the national plan to deploy broadband nationwide.
The FCC said Wednesday that the new app, The Consumer Broadband Test, will be available via Apple and Android online stores, and will be able to measure speed and latency, reporting that both to the user and to the FCC. "The Consumer Broadband Test measures broadband quality indicators such as speed and latency and reports that information to consumers and the FCC. There is also a fixed-application version of the app.
"Transparency empowers consumers, promotes innovation and investment, and encourages competition," said Chairman Julius Genachowski. "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."
The commission has also created an online form at www.broadband.gov that the public can use to submit the street address of a so-called "dead zone" where broadband can't be purchased.
The app does automatically send the test information to the FCC, but the FCC says this is a voluntary initiative to get help collecting that data, and adds that it will protect the identity of its users. "The FCC is committed to protecting the personal privacy of consumers utilizing these tools, and will not publicly release any individual personal information gathered," the FCC said in announcing the new app.
Free Press research director Derek Turner liked the
idea, but warned the FCC not to use it as a substitute for collecting hard data
“While we are pleased the FCC is increasing the
ways consumers can learn more about their broadband connections, these tools all
generate self-selected, non-scientific data, and thus the Commission should be
wary of using any of this information as a basis for policymaking. We hope
as the FCC moves forward with the National Broadband Plan that they act on
long-pending conclusions to actually collect meaningful availability and service
quality data, like speeds and reliability, from Internet service