Policy by the Numbers
Data for policymaking from Google and friends.
Understanding network performance, 460 terabytes at a time
Monday, March 5, 2012
In 2009, Google helped a group of researchers and industry partners
(M-Lab), an open platform for broadband measurement tools. Since then, the platform has produced
of open data to help users, researchers, companies, policymakers and others in the Internet community better understand the performance of broadband connections.
So what can one do with all that data? Because the data’s open, anyone can build on top of it, and that’s led to some exciting experiments.
We’ve been happy to see people using M-Lab not just to measure their own individual broadband connection, but also to make the aggregate data intelligible beyond the laboratory. In addition to a number of national regulators who use M-Lab tests and data to inform their decisions, individual developers and researchers are digging into the numbers and exposing the stories they tell. Below are just a few cool examples of what’s possible using 460+ terabytes of open measurement data in combination with some serious creativity:
event this summer, developers and designers working out of Italy and the UK created an
in which users can correlate data from M-Lab’s NDT tests with other global metrics from
. In the screenshot below, we can see a correlation between M-Lab download speed and Eurostat data giving statistics on regular Internet use and population size. Not surprisingly, countries with better speeds show increased Internet use.
Tony Blank, a developer from Colorado, used data from M-Lab’s Glasnost tool, which helps users measure whether particular applications are being throttled by their broadband provider. His visualization,
, allows you to explore a dynamic, per-application view of the throttled applications worldwide.
Finally, Tiziana Refice, a researcher at Google, worked to join download throughput numbers from M-Lab’s NDT tool with OECD advertised speed data. What we see here is the top portion of a
, showing data for all countries (where it’s available). As the table demonstrates, in all cases the median measured download speed is well below the median advertised speed.
There are many, many more visualizations where those came from, and I encourage you to
and get to know some of the surprising and unsurprising conclusions that we’re able to make based on cool uses of good, open data.
posted by Meredith Whittaker, Program Manager for Google Research who focuses on network measurement
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