FCC crowdsources mobile broadband testing


The Federal Communications Commission is deputizing anyone with a mobile device to play a part in its version of Verizon's "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign.

The new FCC Speed Test App, which dropped Nov. 15 for Android users, allows anyone who wants to install the open source software on their device to collect mobile broadband speeds to help paint a picture nationwide of network performance, upload and download speed, latency, and other factors that contribute to device performance.

The app runs in the background, and automatically conducts performance tests while otherwise idle. It is designed to avoid contributing to data overages with mobile users, consuming 100 megabytes or fewer per month. Users on tight plans can adjust the data use. The FCC promises that data collection is purely anonymous, that no personally identifiable information such as phone number, device number, or subscription information is collected.

The app works by collecting user location, device type including operating system, time of data collection, and cellular and broadband performance characteristics – basically signal strength and speed.

Users can see test results from their own device inside the app. Beginning next year, the FCC will present the data graphically on a map to allow users to compare network speeds across the country, with the goal of allowing a high level of detail on network gaps and slow spots in urban areas. By the second quarter, results will be broken down by network provider, mobile device, and operating system. Later in the year, data will include peak performance by time of day and days of the week.

Currently, the app is available only to Android users. An iPhone version is in development and should be out by the end of January 2014.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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