Opinion: A new era of broadband transparency

New tool measures line speed and compares the performance of your ISP to that of other local ISPs

Most of you will have read or at least heard about the first quarterly Epitiro/IDC Broadband Index report published a couple of weeks ago by the Commerce Commission. All of us involved in producing it were excited by the level of interest it generated.

This is just the beginning of the new era of transparency around broadband performance. I talked a little bit about the methodology we used to collect the data for the report last month. The good news is that we are about to launch a new tool which will provide another means of collecting broadband results — but this time from you, the end user.

One of the limitations of the methodology we currently use is that we are measuring from 11 heavily populated, but static sites around the country. This gives us a good view of how ISPs are performing relative to each other, but does not give such a detailed view of performance across geographies, or from the wide variety of situations in which end users access their broadband service.

The new tool is a free, downloadable desktop agent that sits in your icon tray and runs a series of tests a couple of times a day on your connection. It measures line speed (via a TCP throughput test that determines your line’s maximum speed), browsing, DNS and gaming performance, and also allows you to rate your ISP’s performance.

It’s different from most line speed tests in that it runs more than one test, and the line speed test targets an end-point server in New Zealand. The advantage of this is that it tells you exactly what your ISP is delivering, and removes the multiplicity of variables that exist out in the offshore internet that can affect your test results.

However, there’s one other thing the agent does which is completely unique. It allows you to compare the performance of your ISP to that of other ISPs in your local area, be it Greymouth, Gisborne or Greater Auckland. As long as someone is running an agent in your area, you will be able to see their service’s performance. We have around 2,200 agents out there running the beta version, so if you live in any of the top five cities, you’ll have some data to compare to already.

In the example below, I’ve compared my service (Xtra Pro Ultra) to someone running an ICONZ service in Devonport, where I live. Somewhat distressingly, they’re paying $50.00, and getting 2MB more than I am, despite my service costing $160!

Another useful function is that it allows you to set up multiple profiles; so if you have a laptop you connect to at different locations, you can keep track of the performance of all your connections. Don’t expect it to work if you sit behind a firewall at work however.

As the ISPs, at last, begin to seriously compete, a tool of this nature will greatly assist consumers and businesses in making the right purchase decision — based upon their needs (be it browsing, gaming or something else), and on the level of performance that can be expected in their local area.

I’m also hoping it will allow smaller ISPs to target the long tail in broadband needs, by identifying small geographic or service-related niches.

Give it a go at www.isposure.co.nz.

We’re ultimately hoping to get a few thousand of these agents regularly reporting their results to us from all over the country.

We are particularly interested in people in rural or provincial areas installing the agent, as this will shine some light into an area in which no research exists with regard to actual broadband performance.

Cranna is managing director of broadband benchmarking company Epitiro Technologies in Australasia

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Tags ISPperformanceNetworking & Telecomms ID

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