FCC Seeks Volunteers to Test Broadband Speed

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

The FCC is embarking on a project to determine actual broadband speeds and see if broadband providers are actually delivering what they advertise. As the FCC sets out to expand and modernize broadband access for all of America, it would be nice to have an accurate view of what is currently being provided as a baseline.

The FCC wants to gather data to determine a baseline for measuring the success of future broadband initiatives.
Are you sure you're getting the broadband bandwidth you're paying for? A recent survey conducted by the FCC found that four out of five broadband customers can't answer that question because they aren't even sure what the advertised broadband speed is that they're paying for. Ironically, more than 90 percent are somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with their broadband service, even though the vast majority don't even know what that service is supposed to be.

According to an FCC news release "the FCC is asking today for 10,000 volunteers to participate in a scientific study to measure home broadband speed in the U.S. Specialized hardware will be installed in the homes of volunteers to measure the performance of all the country's major Internet service providers across geographic regions and service tiers. The FCC is partnering with SamKnows Limited in this effort, the same firm that successfully conducted a similar test in the United Kingdom."

I decided to try and see what my actual broadband speed is. Using Speedtest.net, my 6mbps Uverse high-speed Internet in my home office is maxing out at 4.35mbps. Bandwidthplace.com comes in at a slightly higher 4.65mbps, while CNet.com's bandwidth speed test claims I am getting less than 2.5mbps. So, which is it? And, why aren't any of my results the 6mbps I am paying for?

To be fair, the AT&T Uverse site actually lists the various broadband Internet plans as "Up to 3mbps", "Up to 6mbps", etc. So, technically speaking AT&T is, in fact, delivering broadband speeds that meet the agreed upon up to 6mbbps threshold. But, less than 3mbps also falls under the up to 6mbps range. Technically speaking, AT&T could deliver 2.9mbps broadband speed regardless of the plan being paid for and it would be within the prescribed "up to" range.

Unlike DSL broadband--which provides a dedicated connection for your business, cable modems deliver shared access. That means that you, and every other customer of that same cable modem broadband service near you are actually sharing the same pipeline. If your business is the only one using it, you may very well see speeds meeting, or even exceeding the advertised rate. However, during periods of peak usage, that broadband speed can slow to a crawl.

So, how can I be sure I am getting the service I am paying for, and what assurances do I have as the customer that AT&T is actually working to meet the goal of 6mbps? That is part of what the FCC wants to determine, and why the FCC is seeking 10,000 volunteers to install specialized hardware to monitor the broadband connection.

The FCC news release explains "Anyone can register as a volunteer for this national test at www.TestMyISP.com. Volunteers will be able to track the performance of their own broadband service, as well as providing valuable data for the FCC, Internet service providers, and the public at large."

If you would like to get a more accurate determination of your own broadband speed, or just want to contribute the FCC initiative to expand and modernize broadband in general, go ahead and volunteer.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com . He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW .

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon