FCC to Test 'Absolute' Internet Speeds

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In response to criticism of the way it was testing broadband Internet speeds, the Federal Communications Commission, following up a promise it made last month, announced it had hired a vendor to help it perform more accurate tests.

"In a couple of weeks, we will be asking for consumers from across the country to voluntarily install hardware in their homes (on an opt-in basis) that is capable of measuring broadband performance," said the FCC's Dave Vorhaus, an expert advisor in economic opportunity, on the FCC's blog. "The measurements will give us results across a broad swath of providers, service tiers and geographic areas."

The FCC is working with a UK company called SamKnows that has recently performed similar testing there, Vorhaus said. "The FCC will also release a Public Notice in the coming days with details on SamKnows’ technical approach and methodology to allow for comment and new ideas," he added. The company will receive about $600,000 for the work, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Other companies that bid on the contract, which will create five to 10 U.S. jobs, included the Nielson Co., the Wall Street Journal said. SamKnows UK said it would be licensing its technology without charge to a new American company that will be set-up, and based in Washington, specifically for this project.

Approximately 10,000 people are expected to volunteer for the speed test. "The specially developed ‘White Box’ does not monitor the home network or web traffic, but solely focuses on the relevant ISP’s network." according to the SamKnows website. "In addition people who volunteer for the project are given access to their own data so that they can track the performance of their broadband connection comparing it against what their ISP is billing them for."

That should be interesting.