Do you know whether your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is intentionally slowing down your connection?
Chances are we get frustrated by a slow internet connection, but don’t really investigate the reason behind it. There are a million possible reasons for that slow connection and even experts can have trouble diagnosing the root issue. How does the Average Joe know if an ISP has made his connection a low priority?
Even though the Federal Communications Commission made a landmark decision last year in favor of net neutrality, Google and other heavy hitters want to prevent ISPs from prioritizing traffic into two lanes—fast and slow.
A new platform claims it will “empower” users with “useful” information to ensure net neutrality remains alive and well.
M-Lab is an open platform created by Google, Open Technology Institute and the PlanetLab Consortium for researchers to develop measurement tools that give users useful information about their broadband connection.
Current Tools for Users
New tools are continuously being developed, but right now users can perform three tests:
- Network Diagnostic Tool—Gives users a sophisticated look at their connection speed.
- Glasnost—Tests whether ISPs are blocking or throttling BitTorrent transfers.
- Network Path & Application Diagnostic—Helps users diagnose problems with last mile broadband networks.
Empowered isn’t the word I’d use to describe my experience after running the first two tests. Confused and frustrated are more like it. Information returned by these tools isn’t useful for the common user—an opinion that was shared by our Director of Technology.
Results: Network Diagnostic Tool
This tool is rated for an audience of both experts and novices. As you can see from my results, this tool isn’t speaking to your average user.
Simplicity is what’s important when communicating to an end-user. This test doesn’t ask me for my carrier or even my service level (5 mg etc…), so how can it clearly tell me whether my ISP is purposely slowing my connection? How is this test comparing what my current connection is to what it should be? And isn’t that the point?
Results: Glasnost Tool
Results returned by this tool were easier to understand, as you can see.
This tool is only marginally more useful than the last. If you use the peer-to-peer file sharing site BitTorrent, then this tool will tell you if an ISP is limiting your ability to download. But what if you are using any number of other peer-to-peer file sharing sites?
Researchers will undoubtedly come up with some new tests for these other file sharing sites, but even that’s not the main issue. What can I do if I find my ISP is limiting my ability to upload or download?
Who do I call? More than likely I’ll have to find a new ISP and there are only a few choices per geographic area.
Oneupweb Reviews Is Not Impressed
Empowering users by helping them become ISP watch dogs requires making sure they understand the information you’re giving them. It also means helping understand what they should do with that information.
Of course this platform is in its infant stages right now, so anything is possible. Let’s hope Google’s user-oriented mentality starts rubbing off on developers.
Official Oneupweb Review: Oneup Thumbs-Down!
Editor’s Note: We didn’t review the Network Path & Application Diagnostic tool because we received a connection error. Don’t be surprised if you run into issues with this test or the Network Diagnostic Tool because researchers are making updates.