Today, telecom and ISP related newsgroups are discussing the latest announcement from the The Federal Communications Commission of a mobile tool to help consumers test the wireless broadband coverage in their area. The mobile version of the Consumer Broadband Test is available in the Apple iPhone App Store and the Android App Market. Using this tool alongside your portable newsreader can help determine and tweak Usenet access speeds.
Essentially, the app clocks how long it takes to download and upload data to the phone. The release of the two apps come just days before the Commission is set to release its new national broadband plan on March 16, which will heavily stress the need for mobile data networks. One of the more outstanding recommendations has been to:
“Consider use of spectrum for a free or very low cost wireless broadband service.” The FCC didn’t detail where the spectrum would come from, but it falls in line with the government’s February 2010 request for 500MHz of additional wireless spectrum to help improve wireless broadband in the U.S.
The app does automatically send the test information to the FCC, but the FCC says this is a voluntary initiative to get help collecting that data, and adds that it will protect the identity of its users. “The FCC is committed to protecting the personal privacy of consumers utilizing these tools, and will not publicly release any individual personal information gathered,” the FCC said in announcing the new app.
The FCC has been criticized for being too reliant on independently unverified data provided by carriers — instead of going out into the field and collecting data first hand. They’ve also been criticized as an agency that hasn’t been very good about using quality data to shape policy decisions. While these tools may help the few users not familiar with speedtests, it’s not clear how much they’ll help the FCC on the accurate data front.