The Measurement Lab
, a collaborative project launched on Wednesday by the New America Foundation, the PlanetLab Consortium, and Google, will provide researchers with an open platform to host network diagnostic tools that, for example, enable users to determine the speed of their connections, detect traffic discrimination or prioritization, or troubleshoot connectivity problems. The idea is that a fast, distributed hosting platform for such tools could facilitate widespread testing and data collection about how the Internet is working. Google's role will be to supply, separate from their network, 36 servers at 12 locations to facilitate widespread use of the tools provided.
The three tools offered so far are intended for a broad range of users-from novices to technical researchers-and importantly, use of the M-Lab platform for network research is conditioned on all data being made publicly available and placed in the public domain. The laudable goal is to have better data about the nature of broadband networks, as well as increased information for users and developers about their broadband connections.
As we have noted
, there is great potential benefit in transparency of network operation. Increased transparency can be a boon to competition, enabling consumers to make informed choices. It can also be a safeguard against discriminatory practices by network operators. Recall that when Comcast was interfering with BitTorrent traffic, it took months of testing (and denial) for researchers to determine what exactly the company was doing.
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