Giving the Broadband Census

Drew Clark's Broadband Census is a worthy effort: find out what Internet connection speeds people actually get, vs. what's promised.

You provide some details about where you're connecting, and what you're supposed to be getting from your carrier. Then you take a speed test. I just did that here in my Boston apartment. Verizon FiOS promises 20Mb both upstream and down. Here are my results:

TCP/Web100 Network Diagnostic Tool v5.5.4
click START to begin

** Starting test 1 of 1 **
Connected to: -- Using IPv4 address
Checking for Middleboxes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Done
checking for firewalls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Done
running 10s outbound test (client-to-server [C2S]) . . . . . 19.20Mb/s
running 10s inbound test (server-to-client [S2C]) . . . . . . 19.02Mb/s
The slowest link in the end-to-end path is a 45 Mbps T3/DS3 subnet

Close enough. Those are also the speeds I get when I check through, which I find more reliable, in more places, than any other speedtest I've tried. (Be curious to know how they do that.)

What I'd like the census to also do, if possible, is look for restrictions by carriers. Port blockages and usage caps, for example. Can't test for those, but I'd still like to find out.

It's also interesting to me that a census is usually characterized as something the government takes. In this twist, citizens give the census.

Anyway, I'm curious to see what other readers get, and if you're interested in getting involved. Says at that last link, is committed to providing the public with a detailed and accurate collection of information about broadband Internet availability, competition, speeds and prices. invites you to participate in this effort.

Drew is looking for technical, research and outreach committee members. I would think we have a few candidates here.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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It's a Good News Site, but it's Neither Research nor a Census

Monty Python's picture

My impression is that the "census" on the Broadband Census site is primarily an expression of Drew Clark's frustration with Telcos' stonewalling, obfuscation, and outright refusal to release a full data set--abetted by pusillanimous,* timid lawmakers & regulators who will not use their power to force its release.

The "broadband census," which requires high-speed Internet access & flash to complete, is not a census. Neither is it valid, reliable research. A census requires that data be collected from everyone, not just people who can respond because they already have broadband access. In a true census, each person "votes" once, whereas in the speed test, it is possible for one person to "vote" many times over. Valid & reliable non-census research requires a large, representative sample of the population. There is literally no way one can establish whether this has been achieved (which is a ridiculously long shot) based on the information his site collects.

Keep in mind, however, that Drew is a journalist, and an excellent one at that. He is the person who (unsuccessfully, & not due to any false moves on his part) filed a lawsuit under the FOIA to get information from the Telcos about the true parameters of coverage, upload & download speed, pricing, profit margins, & etc.

If I had my druthers, Drew would add qualifying language to the "take the census" part of his site, making clear what it is and what it is not--or remove it entirely, because it is both inaccurate and misleading. Instead, he should focus on the Telcos' dishonesty as well as on the egregious betrayal of the public trust by lawmakers who feed @ the Telco trough, then do their "master's" bidding in Congress. Simultaneously, he could feature the more reliable data he has, like the information he displays concerning the gap between the number of providers officially present in a locality VS the number that are actually there. This would be much more credible and achieve a similar end.

Drew should get out of the research business and stick to what he knows. We should thank him for taking the initiative to bring this critical issue to public attention. His coverage of the availability-transparency issue is incisive, fair and accurate. He has done many good things and shows no signs of stopping, thank heavens. Rather than claiming to do something he cannot do (nobody can do everything), he should reach out to those who can and ask for help. My hunch is that everyone would be happier and the chances of the People prevailing over the kleptocracy would be vastly improved.

*Lacking courage and resolution; marked by contemptible timidity; puny; spineless.

Frustratingly Americentric

smpratz's picture

Too bad. It would be a nice resource for the rest of the world.

Thanks for your comment on the Broadband Census

Drew Clark's picture


Thanks for your comment. Over at, we've lately been actively involved in strengthening our editorial operation, and promoting our Broadband Breakfast Club. But the Broadband Census and speed test remain of great interest to us, and I appreciate you sharing your experiences with it.

By the way, I think the correct URL for the Vonage speed test is (not .net). Vonage appears to be using Ookla, a proprietary speed test which forms the core of the system. Other sites, like DSL Reports, offer a variety of speed tests. is one of a number of sites that use the open source NDT, or Network Diagnostic Tool, designed by Internet2. Virginia Tech's eCorridors Program, began using the test before we did. The Measurement Lab of the Open Technology Initiative by the New America Foundation, and which support from Google, began using the speed test in January 2009, one year after we did.

Colin, I'm not sure what is accounting for your results. Can you e-mail them to

If anyone wants to help us to kick our speed test effort into high gear, please e-mail me:

Pretty cool

Colin Dean's picture

The test doesn't seem to work for me. I'll admit that I have a bit of a "non-traditional" network setup which is the result of me never finishing bridging my modem, but all of the other speed tests I've tried seem to function correctly.
TCP/Web100 Network Diagnostic Tool v5.5.4
click START to begin

** Starting test 1 of 1 **
Connected to: -- Using IPv4 address
Checking for Middleboxes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Done
checking for firewalls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Protocol error!
Simple firewall test FAILED!
running 10s outbound test (client-to-server [C2S]) . . . . . Protocol error!
C2S throughput test FAILED!
running 10s inbound test (server-to-client [S2C]) . . . . . . Protocol error!
S2C throughput test FAILED!
Protocol error!

click START to re-test
I tried again a few more times, but the results were similar. When I tried to "report a problem", the applet crashed the browser (Fx 3.0.10/IcedTea from the Ubuntu Intrepid amd64 repos).

Unfortunately, the Vonage speedtest applet no longer works: "invalid license".