Chairman Wheeler Statement on FCC Mobile Broadband Speed Test App
STATEMENT OF FCC CHAIRMAN TOM WHEELER
NOVEMBER 14, 2013Re:
Commission Open Meeting Presentation on the FCC Speed Test App - Measuring
This past June, Google made headlines when it paid $1 billion to acquire a mapping
software company called Waze. The five-year old startup’s big innovation was to crowdsource
traffic information. Users upload data to help other users ease their travel with information about
delays, speed traps, and construction.
The FCC is taking that billion-dollar idea of harnessing user input – crowdsourcing – to
help consumers navigate the mobile marketplace. We’re releasing the FCC Speed Test App,
which will allow consumers to run tests on their own smartphones to find out how fast their
mobile network is where they live, work, and travel.
We know from experience that this type of transparency about broadband speeds is not
only helpful to consumers on a day-to-day basis, but also that it can drive improvements in
network performance. In August 2011, the FCC released our first Measuring Broadband America
report, the first broad-scale study of actual home broadband performance throughout the United
States. This report was based on information collected by the FCC’s own household monitoring
devices, a kind of Nielsen report for broadband. Collecting this information and making it
available helped consumers make competitive choices. And we all know the power of
competition in this case. The report created an incentive for lower-ranked Internet Service
Providers to boost network performance.
The Speed Test mobile app is not just a tool for consumers; it’s also a tool for the agency.
I’ve said repeatedly that the Commission’s decisions need to be based on facts, and the FCC
Speed Test mobile app has the potential to create one of the richest data sets available on the true
state of America’s mobile networks.
The iteration of the FCC Speed Test mobile app being released today is just the
beginning. This is the “public beta” version of the app. We want feedback from the public on
how to improve it. But we also have our own plan of improvements.
For the initial launch, the app is available only on Android phones. We are planning on
submitting an iPhone version to Apple for approval by the end of January. New releases of the
app to address consumer feedback will follow early in 2014.
Our plan is to continue updating the app to provide more granular data, all subject to
strict consumer privacy protections.
I have directed staff to set an aggressive schedule for providing visualizations and maps that
will allow consumers to compare mobile broadband network speeds and technologies.
In early 2014, a map on the FCC website will allow consumers to compare speeds and
technologies in their regions. Also in the first quarter, as more data is collected, a higher
resolution map of the data will allow consumers to zoom into areas of cities to see
variations of speed, latency, and lost packets.
In the second quarter, higher resolution data should allow the FCC to provide more
localized results, and comparisons by providers, networks, and mobile phone
In the third quarter, focused info-graphics including such things as comparisons based on
time of day, days of the week, combinations of data, and even a weather map of traffic
will be added.
Ultimately, a crowdsourced app, and staff’s ability to develop these maps and graphics with
granularity, will depend on the participation of the crowds. We need consumers to download the
app and upload data. I hope to see a virtuous cycle, as more users will make the app more
valuable, which will attract even more users and so on.
Finally, a word about privacy. Privacy is paramount. To ensure consumer privacy protection,
the FCC Speed Test app was developed in collaboration with a diverse team of privacy experts.
No personal or uniquely identifiable information is collected. All data collected are anonymous,
but in order to protect consumers, the data will be processed and analyzed statistically to ensure
anonymity before any is released.
Thank you to CTIA and the four largest wireless carriers for their support throughout the
development of the app. Thank you to Commission staff for their hard work on this project. We
encourage everyone to download the app, and to give us feedback.
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