Google-Backed Measurement Lab to Distribute Free Routers for Broadband Testing


Measurement Lab is a Google-backed project that brings together industry and academic researchers who are interested in measuring broadband speed, doing network diagnostics and researching how ISPs throttle and block certain applications and services. The project launched in 2009 and has since released a number of tools for measuring your Internet connection. Now, with the BISMark (the Broadband Internet Service BenchMARK) project, Measurement Lab is taking its efforts one step further by distributing a large number of free routers to users all across the country. Currently, the project gathers data every time a user runs a test on its website. This new project, however, will give researchers a better idea of how networks perform, as the measurements are done at the router level and hence shielded from problems on a user’s computer and home network setup.

The project is led by Georgia Tech and the University of Napoli, but the organization is also working with broadband measurement company SamKnows and the FCC. SamKnows, of course, already has a network of routers installed all across the U.S. and UK (I’ve been using one for the last 9 months or so), making the company an ideal partner for this project.

The routers will then run tests throughout the day. These tests measure latency, packet loss, jitter, throughput, and network capacity. The results will be available for researchers, but the users themselves will also get access to a dashboard where they can take a look at their own data.


To apply for a free router and to become part of the project, just fill out this form here. The primary router used in this test will be a NetGear WNDR3700. Advanced users with an OpenWRT-capable router can also download the software package themselves and install it on their own routers.

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Want Google's Ultra High-Speed Broadband? Move to Kansas City, Kansas


Last year, Google announced that it would bring ultra high-speed broadband Internet to one community in the United States. After a long decision process, the search giant today finally revealed which community will be the first to enjoy Google-sponsored Internet access that’s more than 100 times faster than the U.S. average. Out of the 1,100 cities that applied for Google’s so-called “Fibre for Communities program, Topeka, Kansas probably went the furthest in attracting Google’s attention by renaming itself Google, Kansas. That was not enough, though, and Google today announced that it chose Kansas City, Kansas instead.

Google plans to start offering its fibre-based high-speed broadband service there in 2012. The company has already signed a development agreement with the city, but it still needs to get formal approval from the city’s Board of Commissioners.

When Google first announced this project in 2010, it said that it wanted to do this as an experiment to see what the “killer apps” for an ultra high-speed network would be and test how to deploy these networks on a large scale.

9:33 am

Google Grants $1 Million to Georgia Tech to Measure the Openness of Your Internet Connection


Google just granted $1 million to a team of Georgia Tech researchers in order to enable them to build a “suite of web-based, Internet-scale measurement tools that any user around the world could access for free.” Once released, this test will include traditional speed measurement tools, but most importantly, it is also meant to tell users if their ISPs or governments are tampering with the data they send and receive or artificially slowing down their broadband speeds. The project is funded by Google’s Focused Research program.

Google has long shown an interest in an open Internet free of government interference and traffic shaping. The company released the first tools for detecting whether or not ISPs are engaging in traffic shaping in 2009.

As Wenke Lee, a professor in the School of Computer Science and a principal investigator on the grant notes, tools like this can be useful for those who worry that their governments are interfering with their web traffic:

“Say something happens again like what happened in Egypt recently, when the Internet was essentially shut down. If we have a community of Internet user-participants in that country, we will know instantly when a government or ISP starts to block traffic, tamper with search results, even alter web-based information in order to spread propaganda.”

Besides detecting potential censorship, though, tools like this are also useful for checking whether your ISP is really giving you the kind of service level you are paying for.

Interestingly, Google is already sponsoring a similar project called (in cooperation with New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and the PlanetLab Consortium). Measurement Lab just released a large chunk of the data it gathered through its Network Diagnostic Tool using Google’s Public Data Explorer today.

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