Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

Network Performance

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

Measuring Broadband America MBA

Derived From: FCC MBA: "The Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program is an ongoing nationwide performance study of broadband service in the United States that developed out of a recommendation by the National Broadband Plan to improve the availability of information for consumers about their broadband service." [FCC MBA]

Measuring Fixed Broadband

"Reports offer results of rigorous broadband performance testing for 13 of the largest wireline broadband providers [AT&T; CenturyLink; Charter Communications; Cincinnati Bell; Comcast; Cox Communications; Frontier Communications Company; Hawaiian Telecom; Hughes Network Systems; Mediacom Communications Corporation; Optimum; Verizon; Windstream Communications] that serve well over 80 percent of the U.S. consumer market. Tests conducted used automated, direct measurements of service delivered to the homes of thousands of volunteers across the United States. The Measuring Fixed Broadband studies began in 2011 with the release of annual reports based on data typically collected during a single month with few large-scale traffic events, such as major holidays, sports events or other elections. The data analyzed in the Reports thus reflect stable network conditions that provide the most accurate view of a provider's performance under controlled conditions. The FCC works in collaboration with SamKnows, an international statistics and analytics firm supporting similar projects in other countries around the world. The Measuring Broadband America program incorporates the latest engineering best practices from these diverse stakeholders to collect and report the most accurate data for consumer broadband performance in the Unites States." [FCC MBA]

"The methodologies and assumptions underlying the measurements described in this Report are reviewed at meetings that are open to all interested parties and documented in public ex parte letters filed in the GN Docket No. 12-264. Policy decisions regarding the MBA program were discussed at these meetings prior to adoption, and involved issues such as inclusion of tiers, test periods, mitigation of operational issues affecting the measurement infrastructure, and terms-of-use notifications to panelists. Participation in the MBA program is open and voluntary. Participants include members of academia, consumer equipment vendors, telecommunications vendors, network service providers, consumer policy groups as well as our contractor for this project, SamKnows." [Eight MBA Report at 20]

Measuring Mobile Broadband

"In September 2012, the FCC announced it was expanding the program to include information on mobile broadband service performance in the United States. The program uses the FCC Speed Test app for Android and iPhone devices to test the performance of volunteers' smartphone mobile broadband services. Broadband performance data is being collected that includes upload and download speed, latency and packet loss, as well as the wireless performance characteristics of the broadband connection and the kind of handsets and versions of operating systems tested." [FCC Measuring Mobile Broadband]

MBA Methodology

Eighth MBA Report: "The measurements that provided the underlying data for this report relied both on measurement clients and measurement servers. The measurement clients (i.e., whiteboxes) resided in the homes of 6,034 panelists... The measurement servers were hosted by M-Lab and Level 3 Communications, and were located in ten cities across the United States near a point of interconnection between the ISP's network and the network on which the measurement server resided. (See Technical Appendix)

"The measurement clients collected data throughout the year. However, only data collected from September 1 through 6 and September 28 through October 21, 2017, referred to throughout this report as the "September 2017" reporting period, were used to generate the charts in this Report. [This data is uploaded from the end user white boxes to samKnows, who then provides the data to the FCC]

"Broadband performance varies with the time of day. At peak hours, more people are attempting to use their broadband Internet connections, giving rise to a greater potential for network congestion and degraded user performance. Unless otherwise stated, this Report focuses on performance during peak usage period, which is defined as weeknights between 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. local time at the subscriber's location. Focusing on peak usage period provides the most useful information because it demonstrates the performance users can expect when the Internet in their local area is experiencing the highest demand from users.

"Our methodology focuses on the network performance of each of the participating ISPs. The metrics discussed in this Report are derived from traffic flowing between a measurement client, located within the modem or router within a panelist's home, and a measurement server, located outside the ISP's network. For each panelist, the tests automatically choose the measurement server that has the lowest latency to the measurement client. Thus, the metrics measure performance along a path within each ISP's network, through a point of interconnection between the ISP's network and the network on which the chosen measurement server resides.

"However, the service performance that a consumer experiences could differ from our measured values for several reasons:

  1. MBA measures performance only to a single measurement server rather than to multiple servers across a topological and geographical diversity of interconnections. Some paths or interconnection [links with other networks] may be more degraded than others and this can affect a specific consumer's service.
  2. Performance beyond an ISP's network (backbone networks, routing, CDNs, host server performance) is not measured in MBA.
  3. A consumer's home network may be a source of degraded performance. The home network may be shared simultaneously among multiple users and applications within the home. In-home networks, which may includes Wi-Fi, may not have sufficient capacities to support peak loads.[Sundaresan]
  4. Consumers typically experience performance through applications that they utilize. The overall performance of an application depends on network performance, the application's architecture and implementation, and the operating system and hardware on which it runs.

"This Report is based on the following measurement tests:

[Eighth MBA Report]

Broadband measurement methodology can distort results. Aggregating can mask degraded performance underneath. This problem can emerge topologically (aggregating different networks' traffic together masking issues occurring as a result of negotiations between two networks), chronologically (aggregating different times' traffic together masking peak hour issues with non-peak hour traffic), or geographically (aggregating traffic from diverse locations on the network masking issues at a specific POP).

MBA Reports


Statutory Authority

Four months later BDIA would be followed by - and perhaps overshadowed by - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act calling for the National Broadband Plan.
Compare Maj. Joseph Haughney, DCA, ARPANET NEWS from DCA, ANEWS-1 (1 July 1980) ("DCA has recently asked the ARPANET Sponsors for a detailed survey of all ARPANET users. This survey information will be added to the Network Information Center (NIC) Identification Data Base. The reason for the expanded data base is to provide an all encompassing description of who, where, and why a user is on the ARPANET.")

Regulatory Implementation

Academic Research using MBA Data / Infrastructure

Government Activity




Other Government Measurements

Network Performance Measurement Projects