What's Wrong with FCC's Broadband Testing

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In preparation for releasing its national broadband plan tomorrow (which is already coming under criticism), the Federal Communications Commission has started collecting data from users on their broadband performance -- a test that is also coming under criticism.

Like similar testing a couple of years ago, the broadband.gov testing suffers from one glaring flaw: it is self-selected. It's reporting the results from a self-selected group who knew about the speed test, had the time and interest and ability to take it -- and who had Internet access in the first place so that they could. But the people most likely to fall into that group are the Neterati -- the very people who might be 'busting the curve' by having better access than most other Americans.

Most notably, of course, it doesn't test the people who don't have broadband access in the first place -- the people who most need to be identified so they can be served.

People are also chiming in on the broadband.gov blog with other criticisms of the test, which went up March 11. Biggest of the criticisms is that the FCC is not yet releasing the results of the data it's collected (80,000 as of March 12, according to Jordan Usdan, identified as Attorney-Advisor, Broadband Task Force).

Karl Auerbach, former North American at-large representative for ICANN, published an extensive criticism of the FCC testing in his blog . "The motivation is nice but the FCC's methodology is technically weak," he said, going on to describe the several different components of Internet performance and how they need to be measured separately to obtain useful results.

The FCC has also released a Request for Quotation for a more scientific measurement of Internet broadband performance.