FCC Launches Broadband Consumer App for Android, iPhone

The Federal Communications Commission gives American consumers the opportunity to check for dead zones and broadband speeds through a set of tools-one of which is also available as an Apple iPhone and Google Android mobile application.

The Federal Communications Commission launched two digital tools, the Consumer Broadband Test and the Broadband Dead Zone Report, which allows consumers to test their broadband service and report areas where broadband is not available. The Broadband Dead Zone Report enables Americans to submit the street address location of a broadband "dead zone" where broadband is unavailable for purchase, while the Consumer Broadband Test measures broadband quality indicators such as speed and latency, and reports that information to consumers and the FCC.

The Broadband Dead Zone Report form is available via the FCC's Website, as is the fixed version of the Consumer Broadband Test. The government has also made available a mobile app-the FCC's first-of the Consumer Broadband Test, which is available through the Apple and Google Android app stores. Two broadband testing tools are used in this beta version: the Ookla Speed Test and the Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT) running on the Measurement Lab (M-Lab) platform. In the future, the FCC said it plans on making additional broadband testing applications available for consumer use, but noted the Commission does not endorse any specific testing application.

"I hope consumers take advantage of the tools made available today," Jordan Usdan, attorney-advisor for the Broadband Task Force, wrote in a blog post. "As these tests are currently launched in Beta version, we seek the public's input on additional features, testing metrics and testing platforms that can be added in the future."
The National Broadband Plan, which the FCC said it plans to unveil next week, also contains a series of recommendations aimed at helping consumers understand the gap between actual broadband speeds delivered and the maximum speed tiers advertised. Working recommendations include a scientific third-party study on actual broadband performance, a working group to help inform standards for broadband speeds, and further proposals on disclosure needs for fixed broadband services, such as a "digital label." The FCC said these proposals would "further the goals of disclosure and transparency and empower consumers to drive competition in a technology-neutral manner."
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the tools help the FCC gather data to analyze broadband performance and availability on a geographic basis across the United States, noting transparency empowers consumers, promotes innovation and investment and encourages competition. "The FCC's new digital tools will arm users with real-time information about their broadband connection and the agency with useful data about service across the country," he said. "By informing consumers about their broadband service quality, these tools help eliminate confusion and make the market work more effectively."