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Fed Regulators Roll Out Nielsens for the 'Net

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, April 12 2010

The Federal Communications is rolling out what we might think of as Nielsens for the Internet.

In something that hasn't really ever been done before in the United States, the country's telecommunications regulators will be setting out to do a systematic study of the speeds American consumers are getting on their broadband Internet connections. That information doesn't always match the services that ISPs advertise they are providing -- and customers are paying for. But Federal regulators have had to work on an uneven playing field in the past because they lacked good, robust data on the state of American broadband's speeds. Until, perhaps, now.

Volunteers in the U.S. will receive something called a "white box" to hook up to their home Internet connection, according to SamKnows, the British firm that the FCC has partnered with in the project. SamKnows has conducted a similar project with Ofcom (short for Office of Communications), the telecommunications regulator in the UK. In the FCC study, reports the company, they will be "SamKnows UK will be licensing its technology without charge to a new American company which will be set-up, and based in Washington, specifically for this project. "

"In a couple of weeks, we will be asking for consumers from across the country to voluntarily install hardware in their homes (on an opt-in basis) that is capable of measuring broadband performance. The measurements will give us results across a broad swath of providers, service tiers and geographic areas," writes Dave Vorhaus, an advisor to the FCC, on the FCC blog. Vorhaus reports that the commission will be rolling out a website where Americans can sign up to participate.

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