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FCC to Release Mobile Data Speed Test App Because Yay, Redundancy

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By William Peacock, Esq. on November 11, 2013 11:55 AM

A First World Problem: my YouTube app took fifteen seconds to buffer before playing cat videos.

It seems like a silly thing to whine about. Mobile broadband speeds will vary, not just by carrier, but by reception, network load, and your device itself (LTE, HSPA+, 3G are all commonly in use, and provide less and less speed, respectively).

Still, the FCC wants to make sure that customers are getting what they pay for. Plus, with all of the merger talk over the last few years (AT&T's near-nuptials with T-Mobile, then T-Mobile's pairing with MetroPCS), the agency wants to know if we have a competition problem.

The Solution: An App!

Easy enough, right? Release an app, have consumers test their own speed, and aggregate the data. According to The Wall Street Journal, that's the FCC's plan.

With the backing of all four major carriers, as well as the trade association, CTIA, the FCC will preview an Android-only app next week, with a release planned some time afterwards. There is no word, yet, on an iOS app.

Isn't There Already an App?

You might be thinking of Speedtest.net, the long-standing popular favorite for testing one's data connection speeds, either through an app or through your computer's browser. Ookla's app and website have long-since been the standard bearer for checking whether a cellular or land-based data connection was living up to its promises.

In fact, the company has all of its data available on its website, from typical speeds reported by users' tests, to carrier popularity and price.

Most importantly, it has the Promise Index, a measure of whether users are getting what they paid for. For example, according to Ookla, only 58.8 percent of Sprint Customers are getting the benefit of their bargain, compared to the nationwide median at 92.91 percent (though we're unsure if that median includes inherently more-reliable land-based broadband).

So yep. The government is releasing an app, that will hopefully work better than their last venture, to do something that a private company has been doing perfectly well for quite some time.

The FCC's idea: good or wasteful? Tweet your opinion to @FindLawLP.

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