Various governmental organizations have begun to rely on so-called Internet speed tests to measure broadband Internet speed. Examples of these programs include the Federal Communications Commission’s “Measuring Broadband America” program, California’s CALSPEED program, the U.K.’s Home Broadband Performance Program, and various other initiatives in states including Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania. These programs have various goals, ranging from assessing whether ISPs are delivering on advertised speeds to assessing potentially underserved rural areas that could benefit from broadband infrastructure investments.
The accuracy of measurement is critical to these assessments, as measurements can inform everything from investment decisions to policy actions and even litigation. Unfortunately, these efforts sometimes rely on outmoded technology, making the resulting data unreliable or misleading. This article describes the current state of speed testing tools, outlines their limitations, and explores paths forward to better inform the various technical and policy ambitions and outcomes.