CPUC releases app to crowdsource mobile broadband speeds

18 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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Ground truth isn’t as pretty as advertised.

Mobile phone subscribers can find out what kind of service their carrier actually delivers, and pass that ground truth on to California policy makers. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has put its CalSpeed app on the Google Play store. Anyone can download it for free and use it to test mobile broadband speeds delivered by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.

The app is billed as a “professional-level testing tool”. It runs a series of upload and download tests. The results are displayed to the user and automatically sent to the CPUC.

“The CPUC and state legislators will also use CalSpeed results, along with the CPUC’s field test results, to help better decide what areas will need government-funded broadband subsidies,” said a CPUC spokesman in a press release announcing availability of the app.

The third round of the CPUC’s mobile field testing program also kicked off this week. Testers will be driving around California, using the CalSpeed app to test the broadband speeds delivered by all four carriers at 1,200 locations. The CPUC runs a standard sequence of tests at those locations twice a year, building a consistent set of reference data that the public can use to check carrier’s advertised claims against real world measurements.

The CalSpeed app was developed at California State University Monterey Bay, and only runs on Android phones. It’s not possible to build a comparable iPhone version because Apple doesn’t allow the same level of access to the system resources used by the testing protocols.