In an effort to include more wireless data in its periodic reports on the state of broadband in America, the Federal Communications Commission has released an Android app that lets consumers test the speed and quality of their wireless provider (and of course shares that data with the FCC).
FCC Speed Test is currently available via the Google Play app store. Once installed, users can choose to run a test or just have the app occasionally run one in the background.
The app tests four different aspects related to wireless broadband — download speed, upload speed, latency, and packet loss. If a user chooses to run a test on her own, she can pick and choose which of these categories to include. The Commission says it prefers data from random background testing as manually initiated tests “can lead to biased results when performed only at specific times or places, and may provide a less accurate picture of overall broadband performance.”
By default, the tests will eat up a maximum of 100MB/month of data usage, but this number can be changed in the settings to whatever the user wants it to be.
Given the recent revelations about various federal agencies nosing into supposedly private data, there are obvious privacy concerns for some people about installing an app that provides information to the FCC.
According to the Commission, in addition to the speed and quality test results, the app records four other types of information:
1. Location — this includes the location and ID of the cell tower through which your phone connected for the test. It also includes the GPS location for your device.
2. Time of data collection — pretty self-explanatory, this involves recording the start and end times of the test.
3. Handset type and operating system version — what type of device you’re using and what OS you’re running.
4. Cellular performance and characteristics — including your service provider, the strength of the radio signal, and what type of connection (3G or 4G) service you have.