FCC brings its free speed-test app to iTunes App Store

Users of iOS devices can now measure their Internet performance and add it to a public data set

Apple fans can now join Android users in testing their mobile data speeds and reporting them to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to support the agency's decision-making about broadband.

The regulator now offers a free app in the iTunes App Store for measuring mobile performance, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced on Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Software for Android appeared on the Google Play store in November.

The mobile speed-test apps are an expansion of the FCC's Measuring Broadband America program, in which the agency has asked consumers to measure and report their wired Internet speeds for the past few years. Both programs gather information, not including any personal or uniquely identifiable data, for informing the public about Internet performance in the nation as a whole, the FCC said in a press release. The information also helps to inform the FCC's decision-making on broadband policy.

When it released the Android app, the FCC said the data collected would feed maps and other information sources to help consumers compare the performance of competing mobile operators.

Apple users don't get one feature that's in the Android app, which allows that tool to run periodically in the background. With the iOS app, users have to manually test their performance. When they do, the app collects location, time of data collection, handset type and OS, cellular performance and characteristics, and broadband performance, according to the Terms of Service document. The software stores that information on the phone and periodically uploads it to the FCC's servers without unique or persistent identifiers, the terms say.

Measuring Broadband America is a public-private partnership between the FCC and SamKnows, a statistics and analytics firm. So far it has released three reports on fixed broadband networks. Its latest report, released in February 2013, said Internet service providers delivered an average of 97 percent of the speed they advertised.

The FCC's regulation of broadband recently has come under closer scrutiny following a federal appeals court ruling that removed the agency's power to regulate fixed-line ISPs (Internet service providers) as telecommunications service providers, as well as Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable earlier this month.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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