After a survey shows most of us don't know just how quick our Web connection is, the agency is asking for 10,000 volunteers to do some at-home testing — because 'speed matters.'

By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

9:34 AM PDT, June 1, 2010

Four out of five users of high-speed Internet in the United States don't know how fast their connections are, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission.

To help resolve that problem, the agency said it was seeking 10,000 volunteers who would have special hardware installed at home to measure the speed of their broadband Internet service as part of a nationwide, scientific study of the performance of major providers.

"Speed matters," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "The more broadband subscribers know about what speeds they need and what speeds they get, the more they can make the market work and push faster speeds over broadband networks."

The survey of 3,005 adults conducted in April and May asked simply if people knew the advertised speed of their home Internet connection, with 80% saying they did not. The survey also found that 24% of people believed they always got the advertised speed they were promised by their Internet service provider, and 67% thought they always should get what they're promised.

Internet service providers usually hedge their promises, advertising speeds up to a certain rate of data, usually measured in megabits per second. That's because various factors affect speed, including the quality of a person's computer and Internet router, as well as how many people in the home are surfing the Web at any given time.

Because of that, the FCC is seeking volunteers to have hardware installed at home to gauge the speed of the Internet connection before it reaches the router or other equipment. The hardware will measure specific speed information as well, such as for video downloads and Internet phone calling.

People interested in volunteering for the study can apply at It will be conducted by SamKnows Ltd., which conducted a similar study in the United Kingdom.

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Trust the government to come up with an unnecessarily complicated and expensive method of doing something.  They could just set up a site like this:

Or hire them to do it.  Have the users do a screenshot of their results and upload or email it somewhere.   They could probably get 100,000 test results in a month.  Though that would not give them a continuous record.  I bet a lot of people get variations in performance, even at different times of day.

My wife and I just got back from Colombia. We took a new cheap laptop (<$500) with a big screen and left it there to serve as one end of a video phone.

I was a little nervious about whether the connection speed would be adequate, especially on the far end, but we've now tried it a few times over the last couple of days since our return, and it works like a charm using Skype.

The video calls are free, and the only additional cost (besides the laptop) is $20 a month to maintain the broadband connection on the Colombian end. (Wish I could get it here at that

$20 a month is probably less than what we used to spend every month on calling cards.

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