FROM THE DIGITAL DESK | The FCC Wants to Know How Slow Your Bandwidth is. Really.


A couple of months ago I wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to tackle uneven internet availability in America.  Well now, Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel is asking you to help the FCC determine where broadband is "truly" available.  “To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability," she said. 

The idea is to help guide the Biden Administration's definition of broadband availability, which has become an interesting inclusion in the White House’s infrastructure proposal called the “American Jobs Plan.”  The FCC is attempting to gather data from all Americans to define not just where internet service is available in America, but whether it is fast enough and affordable enough for a world that has become untenable without broadband connectivity.  The tests themselves are not new, but rather began during previous administrations.  What is new is a concerted effort to inform much more of us about these testing opportunities and encourage a much larger percentage of the public to participate in sharing their connectivity speeds.

There are two ways you can provide the Federal Communications Commission with information about the bandwidth speeds you have on your phone and/or on your laptops.

The base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app on their phones will enable the FCC to provide improved coverage information to the public as well as add to the measurement tools to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States.

Download the FCC Speed Test for Apple devices here:

Download the FCC Speed Test for Google Play devices here:

What about at-home fixed broadband speeds?  Measuring Fixed Broadband (MBA) from home connections has been performed since 2011 via “white boxes” in volunteer’s homes in an arrangement with the 13 largest broadband providers in the United States.  The FCC has made available open-source software to be used on both fixed and mobile applications that

collects data and provides detailed technical information regarding the methodology for analyzing the collected data.  The at-home data is typically collected from volunteers during a single month with few large-scale traffic events, such as major holidays, sports events or other elections.  The idea is to understand “normal” network conditions that provide the most accurate

view of a service provider’s performance under controlled conditions.

The FCC has worked in collaboration with SamKnows, a statistics and analytics firm, that is gathering, analyzing, and providing reports, on digital connectivity around the world. Each of the American volunteer participants provide information about their Internet service, which is verified by their ISP.  Using this data, the MBA program is able to measure actual performance speeds against what the ISPs advertise to the customer.

Interestingly, the most recent report that seems to be available from the MBA program is from 2016. Given that we’re talking about digital issues measured in fractions of a second, the previous Administration clearly did not place the care and feeding of “digital infrastructure” anywhere near the top of their “to do” list. Let’s hope the current Administration’s FCC can gather data and upload actionable results at speeds faster than my home internet.

broadband, internet access, internet bottleneck, biden administration, jessica rosenworcel, federal communications commission, open-source software