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[ NNSquad ] Amid Vendors' Finger-Pointing, FCC Says: "We Don't Endorse Our Broadband Speed Tests!"

                  Amid Vendors' Finger-Pointing, FCC Says: 
               "We Don't Endorse Our Broadband Speed Tests!"


Greetings.  A week ago in "Why I'm Skeptical of the FCC's Call for
User Broadband Testing" ( http://bit.ly/dApdft [Lauren's Blog] ), 
I questioned the FCC's methodology in loudly promoting a pair of
Java-based broadband speed tests on their Web site, in close
conjunction with the release of their National Broadband Plan.  In
that posting, I discussed a number of technical reasons why I was
concerned that the FCC tests would confuse consumers and generate data
of very limited value.

Now comes word from the FCC that they actually do not even endorse
these tests!  That amusing pronouncement comes in a Los Angeles Times
article ( http://bit.ly/93jvKc ) discussing how a reporter contacted
the Commission after finding wildly varying results in his own use of
the FCC-sponsored tests, and received finger-pointing responses from
the tests' vendors -- each claiming that they were accurate and that
the other test must be screwing up.  One vendor even blamed the M-Lab

The FCC also noted that "there might be more confusion for consumers
than we realized" (technical term: "Duh") and promised to add new
disclaimers to the FCC site regarding "widely varying results" from
using the tests.

It's now more apparent than ever that this particular FCC effort at
consumer broadband testing was in reality likely little more than a
publicity stunt.  Given the many variables faced by these sorts of
manually-triggered "one-shot" consumer tests, they are by definition
usually of use only in the sense of rather gross measurements.  That
doesn't make them worthless by any means, but does limit their
applicability, and as we've seen can exacerbate consumer confusion,
especially when vendors apparently don't always want to mention up
front that these sorts of limitations exist.

I'm glad that the FCC now plans to better disclaim the constraints of
these broadband tests.  Of course, they should have done this
originally, or more appropriately not have so loudly promoted these
tests to the media with unsupportable hoopla in the first place.

Lauren Weinstein
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR
   - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
   - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP - Global Coalition 
   for Transparent Internet Performance - http://www.gctip.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein