The Internet is all about the pipes that the data flows through, the speed with which that data flows, and increasingly the policies, both governmental and business, that control it. In November the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched an Android App to begin crowd sourcing data about broadband speeds. Simply called FCC Speed Test for Android the App logs data about download and upload speeds along with latency and packet loss in addition to signal strength. Yesterday the FCC launched a newer version of the iOS App that was released in 2010 with the same purpose.
The idea behind the Apps is to collect data from around the country by having users test their data speeds and collecting that signal data to analyze it. In today’s skeptical age of government mistrust, the FCC goes out of its way to announce that the data collect is anonymized. The iOS version runs on an iOS devices running iOS 7, but is optimized to run on the iPhone 5 according to the description.
Unlike the Android version which will run in the background and perform the tests periodically, iOS users will need to fire up the App and perform a manual test. You can choose how much data you want the App to use a month with a default of 100mb.
Given that the Internet is becoming as key to our lives as water, electricity, and other utilities, the FCC is in the middle of helping to define how we connect and use the Internet here in the US. In fact, many feel that the FCC should just declare cellular companies and cable companies to be common carriers, because the service they provide is so crucial to the way we live these days. We all complain about the providers, the prices they charge, and the policies that we have no choice but to choose if we wish to be connected. And recent changes and proposed changes by those who control the pipes our data flows through look to make this next period of time a crucial one in terms of forming future policy. A recent article by Nilay Patel of the Verge points out just how precarious a time we live in regarding Internet policy. So, it wouldn’t hurt to be a good citizen of the Internet and download the App and run the tests periodically. Who knows, you might be providing data that could help us all some day.
And, besides, you also gain a free broadband data speed testing App in the process. The FCC Speed Test for iOS is available on the iTunes App Store and the Android version is available on the Google Play Store.