Digging deeper: While the FCC wants widespread access to broadband 20 times faster than today’s in less than a decade, relatively little is known about the state of U.S. broadband today. Maps like this one will get a boost from a flood of new data being opened up by commercial and research organizations.
To further hold ISPs to account, Ookla will soon prompt users to volunteer details of their broadband package, its cost, and their postal code when they do a test. “We will create a promise index to show how well service providers are doing compared to what they offer consumers,” says Mike Apgar, Ookla founder.
Although Meinrath welcomes the FCC’s new trial, he points out that it excludes anyone who downloads more than 30 gigabytes a month, which means its results will not represent the heavy users, who disproportionately influence how ISPs operate. Heavy users are sometimes singled out by ISPs for subtle adjustments that downgrade service quality in an attempt to deter their custom, says Meinrath. “We know from off-the-record chats with network engineers that providers are doing things like increasing the likelihood that heavy users’ packets will be dropped,” says Meinrath.
Ookla, which in the last year processed 65 million unique speed or connection quality tests in the U.S. alone, launched a site last week called NetIndex that provides a way to explore global data culled from the last month of the roughly 1.5 million tests performed every day. Rankings compare nations and cities for upload and download speeds, while maps allow comparison of speeds within an individual country or U.S. state. Only tests performed closer than 300 miles to a test server are included to reduce the effect of network lag, and all results are based on the last 30 days of data. At the time of this writing, based on the more than 5 million Ookla tests done in the past month, the U.S. ranks 28th in the world, between Norway and Russia in the world listing. “For the place where the Internet got started, that is not too good,” says Apgar.
All the data behind the NetIndex site is available to download, and the full dataset of all 1.5 billion tests Ookla has ever served is also now available to all, on request. Measurement Labs also last week made available the more than 60 terabytes of data from tests using its platform. It is hosted on BigQuery, a part of Google’s new cloud storage service, allowing anyone to query the database without powerful data-storage hardware.