SiliconFilter

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

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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.

Apply

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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Free Internet: 32% of Internet Users Regularly "Borrow" WiFi Access

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Do you ever log on to an open WiFi network that isn’t yours? You’re not alone. While in late 2008, only about 18% of U.S. Internet users admitted to borrowing WiFi from open networks, that number has now grown to 32%. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit trade organization, far too few consumers take the necessary steps to protect their networks today. At the same time, though, the organization’s research also found that “40 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to trust someone with their house key than with their Wi-Fi network password. More than one quarter of those surveyed said sharing their Wi-Fi network password feels more personal than sharing their toothbrush.”

netgear routerClearly, though, not everybody feels the same way and open hotspots are generally plentiful in most neighborhoods. This doesn’t come as a surprise, though. For most mainstream users, setting up a secure network isn’t easy and acronyms like WPA2, WEP, 802.1x and SSID mean nothing to most people and the majority of hardware manufacturers have done little to make setting up secure networks easier for consumers.

Undoubtedly, using open and unencrypted WiFi hotspots comes with a risk for both owners and users. Firesheep has turned the previously difficult art of eavesdropping on WiFi networks as easy as installing a Firefox plugin, after all. Those who own an open network can also never be sure if somebody isn’t using it for some malevolent activity either. In a USA Today article about this study, Chet Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at network security firm Sophos, argues that pedophiles could use the open network to download child pornography and that terrorists in Southeast Asia have used open WiFi networks to “communicate and to remotely trigger bombs.”



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