FCC releases iPhone app to learn more about network conditions

With just six days to go before the National Broadband Plan is due before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission today launched a pair of consumer tools -- an app for iPhone/Android, and a Web-based reporting tool -- to help inform both consumers and the Commission itself about broadband conditions across the US.

The mobile application bundles the Ookla Speed Test (a.k.a., Speedtest.net) and Network Diagnostic Tool together into a single package simply branded "FCC Test." Users can check their downlink/uplink speeds and network latency against different US-based servers, and can then export the results as a .CSV file. The FCC says it may use the data collected from the Mobile Broadband Quality Test to analyze coverage and quality on a geographic basis across the US, but it does not endorse one particular testing application over another, so there may be more tests rolled into the app in the future.

The Commission's Broadband Dead Zone Report is much less a tool than a simple complaint dropbox. On the page, the user confirms that they do or do not have broadband available in their home, answers one related question and then provides their address. This is intended to help the FCC determine where the demand for broadband is high despite low coverage.

"Transparency empowers consumers, promotes innovation and investment, and encourages competition," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement today. "The FCC's new digital tools will arm users with real-time information about their broadband connection and the agency with useful data about service across the country. By informing consumers about their broadband service quality, these tools help eliminate confusion and make the market work more effectively."

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