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Broadband Speeds Checked By FCC

After meeting with broadband service providers and consumer
groups, the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Monday
requested public input on what information on broadband speeds consumers would
find most useful when picking a service.

"The marketplace for broadband service is a confusing one
for consumers," said CGB Bureau Chief Joel Gurin in announcing the
public notice. "Most people don't understand megabits-per-second in the way
they understand miles-per-gallon." For example, says the FCC in the notice,
"consumers may have very different needs for broadband service depending
on what they use it for. Someone who uses the Web primarily for email, for
example, may be well served by a smaller and less expensive service than an
avid video viewer would need. Others, such as online gamers, may be especially
concerned about factors like signal latency."

One of the FCC's new network neutrality regs, which haven't
gone into effect yet, will require more consumer transparency about
wireless as well as wired broadband service.

Gurin noted in announcing the notice that an FCC survey
found that "80 percent of people with broadband don't even know what
speed they're getting from their service." He said that ISPs have taken
some "good" steps to educate consumers, but that the new
information collected will be used to help "internet service providers,
the tech community, and the public develop clear guidelines that will help
everyone understand how to get the service they need."

The notice says the goal is to encourage industry best
practices, but it is also advertised as helping the commission "guide its
broadband speed and performance testing process, and work towards standardized
measurements and disclosures," a process already underway with
"voluntary" help from industry and consumer groups, says the FCC.

Comments are due May 26; replies June 16.