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BroadbandCensus.com’s Experience Using the Network Diagnostic Tool as a Beta Speed Test

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, July 21 – The higher-education networking consortium Internet2 released a case study about BroadbandCensus.com and its use of the Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT) speed test. This “case study” was distributed at the Joint Techs Workshops: an international conference of networking engineers, taking place here from July 19-24.

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Experience with NDT Featured in Presentation at Joint Techs Conference in Lincoln, Neb.

Case Study

Editor’s Note: Since the launch of our beta speed test on February 21, 2008, BroadbandCensus.com has been using the Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT) speed test developed by the educational consortium Internet2. The following is a “case study” prepared by Internet2, with the assistance of BroadbandCensus.com. It was distributed at the Joint Techs Workshops: an international conference of networking engineers, taking place in Lincoln, Neb., from July 19-24, 2008. Further information is available in the links below.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com is a new Web service that provides the public with free information on local broadband availability, competition, speeds and service. By participating in an anonymous online census questionnaire, users can greatly contribute to the knowledge and understanding about the state of the nation’s broadband competition and services – particularly as federal lawmakers consider issues in the development of a national broadband policy.

The Challenge

A crucial component of the Broadband Census service is its beta speed test. It allows consumers all across the country to test their residential high-speed Internet connections to determine whether broadband providers are delivering the promised services.

The Solution

In order to provide this service, BroadbandCensus.com has deployed the NDT (Network Diagnostic Tool), an open-source network performance testing system designed to identify computer configuration and network infrastructure problems that can degrade broadband performance. NDT is under active development by the Internet2 community.

When BroadbandCensus.com began developing its Web service in the fall of 2007, various alternative speed tests were explored. The company selected the NDT for two principal reasons. First, NDT is a well-designed, easy to use, open-source solution that is made freely available by Internet2, an organization with goals and purposes broadly congruent with those of BroadbandCensus.com – namely, the advancement of knowledge about the Internet. In addition, NDT has been successfully used by other broadband mapping endeavors, including the eCorridors Program at Virginia Tech, an Internet2 member, which is working to collect data of residential and small business broadband trends throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The implementation process for the beta speed test began in early 2008, after BroadbandCensus.com launched the first version of its site in January. Through close collaboration with both Internet2 staff and Virginia Tech colleagues, deployment of the NDT speed test was seamless and enabled the release of a beta version of the speed test weeks earlier than anticipated.

The Results

Today, BroadbandCensus.com utilizes four available NDT servers: Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California at Santa Cruz, Stanford University, and Virginia Tech. BroadbandCensus.com routes the Internet user to the closest NDT server based upon the stated ZIP code of the user. The company is looking to expand the reach to eight servers in the coming months.

Additionally, Broadbandcensus.com aims to implement an automatic “failover” feature that checks whether a particular NDT server is busy with another test. In doing so, the service could automatically switch the user to the next-closest server rather than requiring them to resubmit the test. Both of these features – additional servers, and the “failover” capability – will provide the necessary scalability as traffic grows on the site, putting more demand for more speed tests.

So far, BroadbandCensus.com has assembled thousands of speed tests, census entries and comments from everyday Internet uses. All of these are freely accessible at BroadbandCensus.com under its Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License. The company is now working to compile its first comprehensive assessment of the speed test data obtained through the NDT tests as part of its contract, with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, to track actual and promised broadband speeds across the country.

“We are gratified that the availability of NDT has allowed us to make a robust speed test available on short notice and with a limited budget. “By shedding light on Internet speeds, we believe the service will play an important role in helping U.S. Internet users and policy makers understand the shortcomings of existing broadband services that can provide a more solid basis for making better decisions about future broadband services and policies.”

Documents and Web Sites Referenced in this Case Study:

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Press Releases

Institute for Local Self-Reliance Announces Two Initiatives to Foster Local Broadband Solutions

Urban Digital Equity Bootcamp and Let’s Get Going Broadband Program announced.

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But the broadband landscape is complicated and confusing for those new to working in it. Every day, we hear from communities looking to orient themselves to the challenges and opportunities they face, and this need only seems to be growing. In response, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is excited to announce two new programs to help leaders and local government officials address their community’s needs in practical, efficient, clear-eyed ways, with sensitivity to all the things that make their community unique. ILSR has nearly 20 years of experience working on local broadband solutions that are accountable to local residents and businesses. We helped to develop the Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, and have worked with hundreds of communities from the smallest towns to the largest cities and counties.

Neither of the programs below is intended to replace existing specialized consultants. Rather, the aim is to help communities understand what their options are before they engage with consultants, so that they can be more efficient with their time.

Announcing the Urban Digital Equity Bootcamp

While most policymakers remain focused on broadband gaps in rural areas, residents of urban areas understand all too well the connectivity problems faced by those who live in cities. The greatest opportunities to achieve digital equity in urban communities is approaching, with unprecedented government and philanthropic support available to address needs long neglected. However, communities need local champions to ensure that problems are resolved in accordance with local goals.

More than 20 years of top-down solutions have failed to result in more connected, resilient communities. The Urban Digital Equity Bootcamps are instead based on the framework that bottom-up approaches, based on trust and local relationships, offer the best path forward. Modeled after the Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, and having learned lessons from the Digital Equity Leadership Lab and Broadband Accelerate approaches, we propose two-day events to develop skills and relationships as well as the needed expertise and partnerships to set and achieve digital equity goals. The program is designed to:

  • Increase knowledge and confidence of participants to allow them to better take action in their communities to achieve digital equity. This includes developing familiarity with key jargon and technologies related to Internet access.
  • Develop diverse cohorts and a larger human network of people sharing local strategies, challenges, and solutions.
  • Demystify Internet technology through hands-on applications and small group learning

Attendees will include a diverse group of stakeholders, from local leaders to activists to the philanthropic community. A key group of attendees would include organizations that already have the trust of frontline communities – groups that understand the importance of digital equity but haven’t had the capacity to address it. In larger communities, multiple events can be tailored to fit the different needs of different neighborhoods.

The primary objective will be building knowledge and trust among local organizations so they can engage in strategic campaigns of digital inclusion. These events will need significant local coordination to be effective.

The Urban Digital Equity Bootcamps will begin this fall. Contact Community Broadband Networks Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar at deanne@ilsr.org for more details, including cost.

Announcing the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program

Community broadband planning and coordinating digital inclusion ecosystems is complicated work. Cities and counties struggling to find the best tools and methodologies needed to address infrastructure and digital inclusion can find the solutions they need by participating in ILSR’s Let’s Get Going Broadband Program.

This eight-week, cohort-based program is designed to help local governments, elected officials, nonprofits, foundations, and digital equity advocates orient themselves and develop solutions. This progressive, syllabus-based program is aimed at helping participants understand local needs, evaluate options, and chart an achievable path to their goals. From leveraging existing assets, to financing, to partnerships, to evaluating available models for success, this program demystifies every step of the process.

It offers individualized advice and assistance along the way, while at the same time placing each community in a small cohort with other cities and counties aiming to solve similar problems. Each cohort will move through the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program together, sharing information, asking questions, and building a network of support along the way. It includes targeted readings, discussions facilitated by ILSR staff, interactive webinars, technical orientation, and lessons learned from fifteen years of tracking, writing about, and talking to communities that have tackled the task of improving their city infrastructure, boosting economic development, improving competition, and reaching the unserved and underserved by investing in locally owned solutions.

The first Let’s Get Going Broadband Program cohort is scheduled to begin in September. The cost per community is $15,000, and we recommend each community will select 3-5 participants to attend.

See the full program flyer with schedule here [pdf], or below.

It includes:

  • Cohort Building – An opportunity for a local broadband team to join a eight-week cohort with other communities in a customized curriculum to develop expertise in solving broadband challenges and taking advantage of funding opportunities.
  • Trainings – 90-minute interactive webinars  focused on understanding – in a commonly accessible manner – broadband technologies, challenges, and how similarly situated communities have addressed these problems.
  • Technical Assistance – Eight, 2-hour technical assistance sessions rooted in local needs
  • Community Progress Reports and Research – Help in developing an information-gathering project with diverse community stakeholders to define digital inclusion problems.

Contact Community Broadband Networks Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar at deanne@ilsr.org for more details.

Sign up for the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program here.

Originally published on the web site of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Municipal Networks Project, this page is reprinted with permission.
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Digital Inclusion

Event: Building for Digital Equity – Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding

ILSR and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance team up for two-hour livestream event on March 16 from 2-4 p.m. ET

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This press release is authored by the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Networks Project led by Christopher Mitchell, and NTIA's Angela Siefer

We’re living through a time with an unprecedented level of broadband infrastructure funding, fueled not only by the American Rescue Plan, but the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Hundreds of community-driven projects are already underway, but finding solid footing amidst these programs, statutes, and evolving rules is difficult. 

To help, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is teaming up with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for a two-hour livestream event to demystify the landscape. On Wednesday, March 16th, from 2-4pm ET, we’re hosting an online conversation to bring together local stakeholders, policy advocates, and funding experts in one place. We’re calling it Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding.

But this isn’t your average conference or webinar, with 45-minute panels that make your butt go numb and your eyes glaze over. Oh no. We’re aiming for a fast-paced, fun, and most importantly interactive conversation between policy advocates, network builders, local officials, and anyone else interested in learning how we can ensure that the tens of billions in upcoming infrastructure funding goes to solving the connectivity crisis permanently rather than once again disappearing into the pockets of the monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The event will feature a mixture of short presentations, panels with Q and A across a bunch of different platforms (so you can watch wherever you want), and trivia with prizes.

You can register for the event here.

Here’s the line-up:

  • It will be emceed by our own Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative, and NDIA’s Training and Community Engagement Manager, Pamela Rosales.
  • The main event is a 50-minute block with multiple presentations on coalition building that will cover what regional governments and coalitions are doing to leverage the flood of federal funds for broadband in the American Rescue Plan, the Consolidated Appropriation Act, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Shannon Millsaps, Director of Operations at Thrive, will do a lightning round on strategies for working regionally and NDIA’s Munirih Jester will highlight some related takeaways from NDIA’s Digital Inclusion Guidebook.
  • The coalition building block will end with a panel featuring ConnectMaine Authority Executive Director Peggy Schaffer and Founder/Executive Director of the National Digital Equity Center Susan Corbett who will talk about how successful broadband coalitions were formed in Maine.
  • After that, Abi Waldrupe of NDIA will discuss Digital Navigators, and more importantly, what is not a Digital Navigator.
  • Another block will zero in on key details about the buckets of federal funds available to states and local communities, centered around the five things every local community should know about how these funds can be used most effectively.
  • Dustin Loup and ILSR’s Data and GIS specialist Christine Parker will preview recent developments around maps, setting the table for a future discussion in greater depth.

Fun trivia questions will be asked of attendees throughout the event and we will close out with a trivia wrap-up and prize give away before the grand finale that will allow attendees to pepper Chris and Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, with lingering questions or thoughts.

You can register for the event here.

Editor’s note: This press release was originally published on Muninetworks.org on February 15, 2022, and was supplemented on March 2, 2022.

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Press Releases

NTIA and RUS Chiefs, Plus FCC and Treasury Officials, to Speak at Broadband Breakfast for Lunch Events

NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson and other top broadband officials have agreed to speak at Broadband Breakfast for Lunch Events.

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WASHINGTON, March 9, 2022 – Broadband Breakfast announced its programs for the Spring, including its weekly Broadband Breakfast Live Online series, and sessions for its new signature event, Broadband Breakfast for Lunch.

Among the speakers at upcoming events will include Alan Davidson, Administrator of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Christopher McLean, Acting Administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, and other top broadband officials.

Bookmark the Broadband Breakfast Live Online event page (it’s also at https://broadbandbreakfast.com/bblo for short), to always find details for the next events in the series. They take place on Wednesdays at 12 Noon ET.

“Right now the world of broadband enthusiasts, in Washington and around the country, are laser-focused on implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Broadband Breakfast is as well,” said Drew Clark, CEO of Breakfast Media LLC, which publishes Broadband Breakfast and hosts its news coverage on broadband policy and internet technology.

Broadband Breakfast Live Online is a free event and it takes place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET, and lasts for one hour. Individuals are welcome to sign up and participate from wherever they are located.

Broadband Breakfast for Lunch takes place on the second Wednesday of each month – on March 9, April 13, May 11 and June 8, 2022.

There are two ways to participate in Broadband Breakfast for Lunch events: IN PERSON or LIVE ONLINE. To attend IN PERSON, sign up to attend in person through Eventbrite. Please arrive for lunch at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C., by 11:30 a.m. to be seated for lunch. The program will begin promptly at 12 Noon ET.

You can also PARTICIPATE ONLINE in any Broadband Breakfast Live Online – including Broadband Breakfast for Lunch – on Zoom, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

Closely focusing on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

“In closely focusing on IIJA and bringing together the top policy-makers at NTIA, USDA, FCC and the Treasury Department, Broadband Breakfast is doing what it does best: Building a big tent approach to getting better broadband, better lives,” said Clark. “We aim to connect and enlighten with timely, topical and smart events.”

At the March 9 event, which is co-hosted with Broadband.Money, Broadband Breakfast for Lunch will include a discussion of how to prepare for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, featuring Edyael Casaperalta of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. Discussion will tackle what actions the federal government, states and infrastructure builders should take to ready for the years of infrastructure projects that this investment will bring.

The March 16 Broadband Breakfast Live Online discussion will take place live from WISPAmerica, the spring show of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association in New Orleans. It will feature a discussion about whether local wireless internet service providers should “overbuild themselves.”

The March 23 event will examine competition in the markets of social media and big tech and evaluate the American Innovation and Choice Online Act that is currently being considered by policymakers in Congress.

The March 30 event, in advance of Earth Day, environmental policy stakeholders will enter a conversation on how technology can help the environment amid ongoing climate concerns said to threaten humans in the future.

The event on April 6 will continue Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s discussion of broadband mapping and data that previously checked in on mapping efforts in several states around the country. This time the focus will be drawn inside the home – looking at how local service providers are working to improve customers’ connectivity once internet service reaches the walls of their dwellings through advancements in router technology and recommendations to optimize user experience.

Broadband Breakfast for Lunch on April 13 will continue consideration of key features in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as we look at the bill’s proposed middle-mile infrastructure programs and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s execution of the programs through an intimate fireside chat.

Upcoming Broadband Breakfast Live Online events

Although Broadband Breakfast Live Online programs are subject to change to accomodate breaking news events, the next eight weeks of events include:

  • Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Censorship by a Country, or Censorship by a Tech Platform?
  • Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 12 Noon ET — New Wires on Old Poles: Will the FCC Change Rules for Attachments?
  • Wednesday, May 4, 2022, 12 Noon ET — The Future of the Smart Home, and the Future of the Smart Apartment Building 
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Preparing for IIJA’s Digital Equity Planning Grant Program — BROADBAND BREAKFAST FOR LUNCH, IN PERSON AND LIVE ONLINE
  • Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Changing the Universal Service Fund: At What Cost?
  • Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 12 Noon ET — The Future of Privacy
  • Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Broadband Mapping and Data (Part 3)
  • Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Preparing for IIJA’s State Digital Equity Capacity Grant and Competitive Grant Programs — BROADBAND BREAKFAST FOR LUNCH, IN PERSON AND LIVE ONLINE

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can also PARTICIPATE ONLINE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Zoom.

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