FCC Broadband Speed TestThe FCC today said it will re-launch its voluntary nationwide broadband speed tests beginning in March. This time around, the FCC said it is expanding the study to include “more technologies, extending the study into new regions of the country and planning to publish more kinds of data.” The commission said it plans to issue two reports based on these findings during 2012.

When the FCC conducted similar tests in 2011, it was able to gain information about broadband service providers representing 86% of all residential wireline broadband consumers in the U.S. That time around, the FCC said it had “thousands” of volunteers.

Based on information gathered from last year’s tests, the FCC determined that, by and large, service providers are delivering the broadband speeds that they advertise. Some weeks later, the commission also credited the test data for driving significant performance improvements from one of the companies whose service was tested—Cablevision.

Last year’s tests were conducted via an interactive website. But this time around a different methodology is planned. Participants will receive a free wireless router to be provided by the FCC’s contractor SamKnows. The router will be programmed to measure the speed and performance of the participants’ broadband connections. Those interested in volunteering are invited to sign up at a speed test website.

The announcement doesn’t say, but presumably the free wireless routers are being given only temporarily. Hopefully SamKnows has a plan in mind for ensuring that they are safely returned.

Some industry observers groused about the amount of money that was spent on the initial speed tests. I’m sure many of us would be even less happy if taxpayers were forced to foot the bill for unreturned test routers.

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4 thoughts on “FCC Plans New Broadband Speed Tests

  1. Actually, the tests that SamKnows performed for the FCC last year were conducted with the same wireless router that will be used in this year's testing. The FCC tests performed with the websites mentioned in the article were part of an earlier FCC study that SamKnows was not involved with. I don't believe that any of those website test results were included in the FCC's August 2011 broadband survey report.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. Can you tell me what the previous SamKnows data was used for? The FCC definitely hired SamKnows last year for some sort of speed test.

    And if SamKnows didn't do the testing last year that the FCC referenced in Friday's post, do you know who did? Maybe Ookla?

    I don't believe that test involved provided routers to participants. It appeared to be an interactive app.

    And if, as you say, SamKnows has some history with providing free routers, do you know any details about how they got them back?

  3. Two separate projects. The FCC has used a web based app, similar to DSL reports, etc., to enable subscribers to measure broadband speed since the National Broadband Plan. In 2010 the FCC contracted with SamKnows to measure broadband speeds in a much more sophisticated experiment; the actual measurements took place March 2011. Those measurements were made using the SamKnows provided routers. Those results were reported in August: http://www.fcc.gov/measuring-broadband-america. No word yet when SK want their routers back.

  4. My home is one of the sites with a Samknows router. I have Verizon FiOS. I heard about the program, volunteered, was selected and received a router while I was away at Christmas time 2010. I plugged it in and joined the program in January 2011. So far, no one has asked for it back and I am still getting monthly Broadband report card emails from Samknows (so they are still gathering data).

    On the other hand, the box is a very basic consumer router (presumably with some extra Samknows software). There may be some residual value, but not much given the cost of shipping and of managing a program to get these boxes back. I suspect it would be more useful to continue gathering data until such time as the box dies.

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