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M-Lab Celebrates 10 Years of Broadband Speed Tests, Discusses Work with Schools and Libraries

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WASHINGTON, August 16, 2018 – New measures to improve broadband education and access in schools and libraries were among the innovations in broadband data touted on the second day of a conference last week on Measurement Lab.

The 10 year anniversary conference was hosted on August 7 and 8 by the New American Foundation, which helped to create the group. M-Lab  collects millions of Network Diagnostic Tool data points per day through an internet speed-test accessible directly through a one-click box on Google search engine.

The test checks internet speed in 30 seconds and sends the user’s IP address and the speed test data to M-Lab, gathering vital information for broadband availability and access data, and subsequently available for public use on an open-source basis.

The Open Technology Institute discussed a new project on school and library speed tests

Chris Ritzo, senior technologist at Open Technology Institute of New America, conducted a project to test broadband speeds in schools and libraries.

The initial field test was conducted in Alexandria, Virginia, to measure broadband in schools. The project utilized small computers that ran automated M-Lab NDT tests at random times throughout the day. The computers were put in classrooms during times of student and instructor use.

Ritzo called it “a small scale project” of about 20 devices . The tests were about 2 months long, collecting data on internet performance over time.

The FCC’s existing broadband data collection efforts have been criticized for providing data that allows providers to overstate coverage. Through conducting these small-scale tests in an individual school, Ritzo aimed to uncover deployment issues and gather empirical broadband data.

Discovering and resolving issues with broadband speed tests

Ritzo described difficulties encountered through the testing process, including issues with Wi-Fi stability and connectivity. Since then, the team has “continued to work on some of those challenges,” he said.

Rather than manually deploying the tests and devices, the team is managing devices and code for the broadband tests using Resin.io.

Resin.io is an internet of things platform that  can help to “manage device provisioning, code deployment, updates and remote access.”

Test data was displayed in visualizations developed using a tool called Grafana. According to Ritzo, effective visuals are vital for communicating with the public, particularly the school officials involved in the pilot project.

Partnership with Simmons College to collect library broadband data

They are now extending the project from schools to public libraries in the United States. The new project is a partnership with Simmons College, to create a workshop with 10 to 15 libraries around the country.

Ritzo explained that OTI is working with Simmons to build a new system that would engage effectively with the public. “Part of the process of the workshop will be to engage with libraries and IoT staff to determine what data would be useful” as well as what the presentation looks like to them, and what other local data would be helpful.

According to Ritzo, the project aims to build off of the Digital Inclusion Survey, an annual survey research that was conducted in the past by University of Maryland. The survey requested that librarians report diagnostics on internet service and information about who is using it. Later, the survey began asking for data from internet speed tests.

The new project has a goal of understanding the broadband divide across rural, suburban and tribal areas

“Our goal is not a ton of libraries participating…it’s a defined time frame, its two years and in the first year we’ll work with 10 to 15, and then scale the second year after some iteration of platform feedback,” Ritzo explained. “The goal is to spread across different types of libraries.”

According to Ritzo, spreading across the country to different types of libraries works toward the goal of understanding broadband access across rural, suburban, and tribal lands, information that is vital to closing the digital divide.

“The real goal in us participating in the libraries program is to build a system that can be deployed in different situations,” he said. The library program aims to produce a toolkit with software and information about how to manage it effectively.

Such a toolkit and manual to explain the technical side of broadband would bridge the gap between data scientists and those who may not have the same technical background in data, such as library employees.

“Working with librarians who are providing direct service…and the folks who manage their networks–this is part of the process that is more human than technical,” Ritzo said. “Part of the project is about bringing those two groups together,” and figuring out what IT employees and librarians need to know, and how data scientists can provide visuals to help them understand it.

(Photo of Chris Ritzo from the New America Foundation.)

 

Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Data

FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Broadband Data

Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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