Feb. 16, 2016
Today, the City of Seattle’s Department of Information Technology launched a new tool to assess the Internet speeds Seattle residents experience at home. Developed in partnership with the Open Technology Institute and Open Seattle, the tool, called the Broadband Speed Test, measures upload and download speeds available to local users at the time they take the test, and maps the results to census-block segments of the city. Using this test, residents can check their speeds from any device at any time of day. When enough data is collected from a given census block, the results are displayed on a map. The data are published to the City’s open data portal, data.seattle.gov, and to the open Internet measurement dataset, Measurement Lab (M-Lab).
The tool utilizes the open source NDT test and platform provided by Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a consortium of public interest groups, academic institutions and industry partners, providing an open platform dedicated to Internet performance measurement. When a test is started, the browser opens a connection to the closest M-Lab server. It then exchanges with the server a synthetic stream of data, generated solely for the purpose of measuring the connection at that time. During the test, the server collects around 100 low-level metrics. When the test is completed, the user is shown three of the most accessible measurements: download speed, upload speed, and minimum round trip time.
“This is a great example of how Measurement Lab’s open data and tools can be used to provide local-level data to decision-makers on consumers’ actual service levels on the ground”, saidChris Ritzo, Senior Technologist at the Open Technology Institute. “We were pleased to work with Seattle on this important project, and will continue working with communities in the US and internationally to develop tools that leverage M-Lab tests and data for community engagement and advocacy on broadband issues.”
Today, 97 percent of Seattle households can access broadband Internet, and more than 160,000 homes have access to gigabit fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) broadband. Some households have a choice of two, and in some areas three, wired broadband providers.
In practice, however, not all residents take advantage of this access, even where it is available. Many households purchase slower speeds, use devices with older network cards, use WiFi rather than hard-wired connections, share service across multiple devices and even households, access the Internet at peak use times, or do not purchase home Internet at all.
The crowdsourced data from this tool will help the Department of Information Technology and others in the community to assess progress toward Mayor Murray’s goal. It will also identify areas of the city where discrepancies in access may exist and provide publicly accessible data about the state of Internet quality in Seattle.