Maximizing openness of broadband data

Earlier this year the FCC launched a wide-ranging Data Innovation Initiative to improve the ways it collects, analyzes, and disseminates information about the state of broadband in the United States. They’ve already made great strides, launching a Consumer Broadband Test and a Spectrum Dashboard.

In comments filed today, we offered some ideas on how the FCC can take these efforts to the next level.

Data innovation depends on open data. The more open and transparent the FCC makes its broadband measurement data, the easier it will be for third-parties to build on them – to analyze the information, layer it on top of maps, or create other user-friendly reports. Some of the most useful insights may come from network researchers engaging in deep analysis of raw data, as well as examining and comparing different data sets.

Open data also will drive better measurement over time. There’s a common saying among open source advocates: Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. Providing open access to the raw data will help network researchers and others identify shortcomings and improve methodologies.

The Commission has made some good progress on this front. For example, last week the FCC released software to help others build on the results of its Consumer Broadband Test. This test uses the Network Diagnostic Tool that runs on Measurement Lab (M-Lab), an open platform for broadband measurement. All M-Lab test results – currently, over 100 terabytes of information – are made publicly available so that anyone can build on and learn from the data without restriction (data is currently available through Amazon Web Services, Google Big Query and Google Storage for Developers).

The FCC is now building on this effort through the TestMyISP project, a collaboration with SamKnows, to comprehensively measure U.S. broadband quality. The project intends to make use of M-Lab, and make the resulting data openly available.

As the FCC embarks on this and other measurement projects, maximizing openness and transparency will be absolutely essential.