The Buffalo News recently published an article about New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's initiative looking into internet speeds actually experienced by consumers. He's asking New Yorkers to visit a website called the Internet Health Test. The site has since been featured on TIME, Consumerist and Reuters. It is making headlines due to the pressure the AG is placing upon ISPs--“New Yorkers should get the Internet speeds they pay for. Too many of us may be paying for one thing, and getting another.”
The News erroneously credited the Attorney General’s office with the creation of the speed measurement site. What the AG actually put together was this site to collect the data from the speed test, as well as other information about you and what you're currently paying for. The Internet Health Test site was made by the organization Fight For The Future for their Battle For The Net campaign, utilizing components designed by Measurement Lab, "a global network measurement platform dedicated to open and reproducible Internet science."
Check out M-Lab's brief video explaining what they do:
Pretty neat, huh?
The Attorney General has decided to use the Internet Health Test, built upon this infrastructure, in their investigations of Time Warner, Verizon, and Cablevision (in other parts of the State).
Now, there are numerous Internet speed tests out there. We at City Of Light 2.0 have used sites such as Zoomla and Speedtest. So why would the AG using this one in particular? And what does that mean?
Your usual speed test tool only measures the speed of your connection on your provider's network, and not to the wider Internet. However, when you browse the Internet, typically information travels across many different networks (where those networks meet are the interconnection points mentioned in the News article). Internet Health Test tests outside of just Time Warner or Verizon's network to other points, giving a better sense of your true speeds.
In essence, this speed test is highly accurate. That's the long and the short of it. And that's something the AG recognizes and values; when submitting your data, you must digitally sign and then check three boxes:
While the first statement above notes that "this does mean that the Attorney General has initiated a lawsuit or that it will do so,” the data that the AG is collecting here from consumers like us can be used to legally hold ISPs accountable regarding their alleged throttling of certain over-the-top providers like Netflix or Hulu, from whom they like to collect more money.
We can be fairly certain that this drive by the AG is connected to Governor Cuomo's goal of access for all New Yorkers to 100 down and 10 up speeds by the end of 2018. It's great to see Attorney General Schneiderman’s office taking this goal seriously and putting their weight behind guaranteeing quality service for New Yorkers. We should really not have to deal with something even less than the meager speeds we have access to. And though we haven't seen anything from the NYS Broadband Program Office, we can only assume that they're working in concert with the Attorney General, as well as with CTC Tech & Energy as they advise the State on the Governor's initiative.
If they AG can pin the throttling on the incumbent ISPs, this would not bode well for them being the providers to bring residents up to the 100 down/10 up speeds we'll hopefully all have access to (though whether any particular resident purchases it or not is another matter) by the start of 2019.
Beyond any speculation, what we do know is that Verizon and Time Warner--our only points of access to the Internet here in Western New York--don't care one whit as to the quality of your connection (not that you didn't already know that). This isn't limited locally to Verizon and Time Warner, but to other large providers on both a state and national level. Whether it be speed, reliability, or how much they charge you each month, their only concern is their bottom line. Despite its negative effects on their customers, or even its potential legality (if they AG can pin the throttling on them), they'll do just about anything to increase their profit margins, because apparently a 97% margin isn't quite enough.
While we struggle with meager connections and need the intervention of the State Attorney General to ensure that we're getting the meager speeds that often barely qualify under the FCC's new definition of broadband (25Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload), others elsewhere are already experiencing speeds, reliability, and customer service that most of us here in WNY haven't even begun to fathom.
We're recognizing that the biggest hurdle to us attaining something similar might really be that folks just aren't aware of the potential that a locally controlled fiber-optic network holds, and how easy it would be to attain something so much better. We're thankful the State is throwing into a clearer light the state of our current situation. The more people recognize it, the more likely we'll have an open, locally-controlled fiber-optic superhighway.