Back in October, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters to three of the state’s biggest broadband providers — Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and Verizon — seeking information about the connection speeds they market to consumers and the speeds they actually deliver. Now, the state is asking for consumers’ help in seeing if these Internet service providers are being honest.
It’s a pretty simple process, one that gets around some of the privacy and accuracy concerns of the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America report.
First, New York residents can go to the third-party InternetHealthTest.org, and simply click “Start Test.”
The site then measures your “throughput” Internet speeds – the speeds at which customers actually reach content on the Internet — to several points online. It will take up to a few minutes to go through the full list, but in the end you’ll have yourself an idea of what your average connection speed is.
This differs from the FCC test, in that the FCC does not use throughput data for its report on advertised vs. real broadband speeds. Instead, that report has thus far only published measurements of connections along the “last mile” of users’ Internet connection — i.e., just how quickly a user’s data moves along the network of their ISP, not its speed across multiple, interconnected networks.
The other concern that has limited participation in the FCC’s broadband speed tests is privacy. A lot of folks are just not thrilled with the idea of giving any information about their Internet use to any government agency.
To get around that problem, the New York program only asks that volunteers send screenshots of their test results, using this online form (which also has instructions on taking a screenshot). The image you attach includes no information about your device (browser history, IP address, etc.), and the only identifying info required on the form is your name and ZIP code. Any other personal info on the form — e-mail address, phone number — is voluntary.
“New Yorkers should get the Internet speeds they pay for. Too many of us may be paying for one thing, and getting another,” says Schneiderman. “By conducting these tests, consumers can uncover whether they are receiving the Internet speeds they have paid for.”
The tests are being applauded by consumer groups, including our own Consumers Union.
“As Consumer Reports has pointed out, Internet speeds can vary considerably, and consumers do not always get the ‘blazingly fast’ internet speeds they are are paying for,” explains Chuck Bell, Programs Director for CU. “We have heard from dozens of customers in New York who are concerned that they are not getting the internet speeds promised by internet providers.”
Likewise, Susan Lerner, Executive Director for Common Cause/NY, points to the importance of crowdsourcing this sort of information on ISPs.
“No individual New Yorker acting alone can influence the giant telecom companies that control broadband in our state,” say Lerner.