The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) recently released a new public map, the Indicators of Broadband Need. Pulling together different sources of data in this excellent, publicly available resource is helpful to communities as they plan how and where to improve broadband services for their residents. Historically, many factors have made it difficult for communities in the US to address digital inequities through federal subsidies, notably the well publicized inaccuracies of federal data sources on broadband deployment from the FCC. This process is changing and hopefully improving at the FCC. But the landscape of assessing or measuring who does and doesn’t receive quality and affordable Internet service is also complicated by the conflation of multiple measurement data sources covering different aspects of Internet connectivity and user experience. The different data layers in the Indicators of Broadband Need provide a chance to step back and examine all currently available sources, understand what they are measuring, how they differ, and what aspects of Internet service are not yet being measured, but should be. The Internet is a complex system, and the reality is that no one measurement methodology or data source is sufficient to measure its performance.
Many people know M-Lab and our TCP performance test, NDT, from running it in a web browser. Perhaps the largest single source of NDT tests comes from its integration by the Google Search team. While M-Lab is known for the large volume of crowdsourced test data resulting from people running our tests, over the past few years we’ve developed new ways to run our tests and open source Internet measurement tests from other platforms using a tool we’ve called Murakami.