The FCC Wants to Improve Internet Access, Here’s How to Help

A OnePlus phone with the FCC Speed Test app open
Josh Hendrickson

How fast is your internet? If you aren’t sure, you can always perform a speed test through Ookla. But what if checking your speeds could lead to improvements down the road? That’s what the FCC is (almost) promising, as it asks people to voluntarily check speeds with the FCC app on iOS and Android.

Like similar apps, the FCC Speed Test app is free. But unlike the others, you also won’t have to deal with ads littered all over the place (often precariously close to the start button). The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) hopes that by offering a free and ad-free app, many users will check their local speeds, sending the data back to the FCC. The FCC promises not to upload too much data to help prevent going over any caps, and you can set limits to help with that.

For years, the FCC relied on ISP’s to self-report the speeds those companies offered, which unsurprisingly led to overly generous estimates above real-world results. By shifting to a speed test app, the FCC will get more accurate data. That’s why it’s asking for volunteers now.

“To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability. Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we’re developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States,” said Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel.

With more (and presumably) accurate data, the FCC can better focus its efforts on bringing high-speed internet access to the places that need it the most. At least, that’s the implied promise and nothing is guaranteed in the long run. But in the worst case scenario, you get an easy-to-use app that won’t bombard you with ads.

While it’s true that you’ll be measuring your home internet speeds over Wi-Fi, which is slower than an ethernet connection, that still will give the FCC a better idea of when an ISP is overpromising. Depending on your Wi-Fi setup, your wireless speeds should be at least within the ballpark of your promised wired speeds. And connecting to your phone’s data carrier will reveal speeds about it. The app can tell the difference between your home ISP and your cell phone service, so testing both is helpful.

The app is easy to use; just install it and hit start. Just like any other speed test app, you’ll get download and upload speeds, along with latency and other data. You can even track results over time to see if your internet really did slow down. And if you’re on Android, you can enable automatic checks on a schedule (iOS permissions prevent that feature).

You can download the FCC Speed Test app right now on iOS and Android.

Download on the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play
Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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