Skip to main content

The FCC is rebooting a three-year-old plan to crowdsource mobile broadband speed tests

The FCC is rebooting a three-year-old plan to crowdsource mobile broadband speed tests

Share this story

After being sworn in earlier this week, new FCC chair Tom Wheeler is preparing to pick up where his predecessor left off. The Wall Street Journal reports that today, the FCC said it's almost ready to preview an app that will let users test and report their mobile broadband speed. Using this data, the agency will compile its first nationwide study of mobile broadband service across different carriers — much like the broadband tests it's been conducting over the past few years. An open meeting on Thursday, the first with Wheeler in command, will include a presentation on the app, which is set for release on Android in the spring of 2014.

The mobile broadband report has been a long time in the making: the FCC announced its intention to conduct a study in September of 2012, and the page for this app has been around since the spring of 2013. But the app's lineage can be traced all the way back to 2010, when the agency first decided to crowdsource mobile broadband speed testing. The Consumer Broadband Test was available for iOS and Android; it measured download speeds, upstream speeds, and latency for Wi-Fi and cellular connections. Since its launch, though, the test seems to have largely faded away. The apps aren't in the App or Play Stores, and they seem to have been gone since at least August, when a government helpline agent told Consumers' Research that they didn't know why the listings had disappeared.

It's also not clear what the FCC did with the data it collected, or whether the information was complete enough to use. On its FAQ page, the agency says that the new app "will do everything the old app did — allow you to run real time tests of latency, upload and download speeds on your smartphone — with the added bonus of running additional diagnostic tests in the background that will be compiled by the FCC for the first nationwide study of mobile broadband performance." In any case, the new app has secured the cooperation of all major carriers and wireless industry group CTIA and is currently in beta testing. Android users can sign up to receive an email when it's ready for launch, and iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry apps are apparently in the works.