What is the Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program?

Measuring Broadband America is a U.S. government-sponsored program managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It was developed to assess U.S. consumers’ Internet services. The MBA program enlists volunteers across the entire country to volunteer to attach a simple dedicated measurement device, also referred to as the ‘Whitebox’ to the home Internet router.

Since 2010, the FCC has been managing the MBA program to better understand the nation’s broadband Internet performance.

This program is the only one of its kind in terms of the openness and transparency of its technical approach to measurement, data analysis, and data sharing. In particular, its collaborative approach between Internet Service Providers (ISPs), academics, and all interested parties is unique. Feedback from all, especially the public, is welcomed as it enables the program to continually improve and evolve.

Each household’s data is anonymized and aggregated to present a country-wide perspective.

The FCC makes the data collected available on its website, so that it is easily accessible by all interested parties, including consumers, government agencies, and academics.

Who runs the measurement program?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for managing the Measuring Broadband America program. The FCC's contractor, SamKnows, operates the MBA test infrastructure and processes, including volunteers’ outreach, data collection, analysis, and logistics.

The FCC is an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress. It is the United States' primary authority for communications law and regulation.

SamKnows works on behalf of consumers worldwide to measure both fixed and mobile Internet performance. Its test methodology is considered to be the standard for benchmarking Internet performance and customer experiences.

What are the goals of the project?

The Measuring Broadband America program was developed to assess American consumers’ Internet services and determine the status of broadband service performance across the United States. The data collected will help inform consumers, industry, and policy makers about the current performance levels of both fixed and mobile broadband networks with the goal of improving broadband service performance nationwide.

Do I qualify to participate?

To ensure fair representation and accuracy in our data, we need to have equal coverage all over the country. This means we will be keeping an eye out for volunteers with certain Internet packages.

If you fit our needs, we will send you a Whitebox at NO charge! All you need to do is plug it in and get tracking.

Anyone in the United States of America can sign up. All you need is:

  • A subscription to fixed Internet service
  • Some space next to your router for a Whitebox
  • Interest in understanding the performance of your Internet access service

Find out if you qualify for free enrollment by clicking Volunteer Now.

Will I be selected to participate in the program?

We strive to include as many people as we can but unfortunately we are unable to accommodate everyone. Participants are selected to cover areas across the USA and ensure that we measure performance across a variety of speed tiers for each of the participating ISPs. Our aim is to get the most accurate picture of Internet performance in the U.S.

We plan to increase the number of participants each year. So, if you have not been selected, please consider volunteering again in the future. You can check the website for opportunities to volunteer.

Is there a charge for participating?

No. If you are selected, we will send you a Whitebox free of charge. All you need to do is connect it to your router.

Volunteer Now to find out if you qualify.

Will my monthly data cap be affected?

Data usage is the total volume of data used on your broadband connection. The larger your bandwidth, the larger the amount of data available to you.

The amount of data your Whitebox uses varies depending on your package (speed-tier). For example:

  • Download speed at 10Mbps: 480MB per day, 14.6GB per month.
  • Upload speed at 1Mbps: 33MB per day, 1GB per month

In addition to the variable usage, there is a fixed data usage for your Whitebox which is 272MB per day, 8.27GB per month.

Below are some examples:

  • 10x1: 14.6GB + 1GB + 8.27GB = 23.87GB
  • 20x2: 29.2GB + 2GB + 8.27GB = 39.47GB
  • 50x5: 73GB + 5GB + 8.27GB = 86.27GB
  • 100x10: 146GB + 10GB + 8.27GB = 164.27GB
  • 150x15: 219GB + 15GB + 8.27GB = 242.27GB
  • 200x20: 292GB + 20GB + 8.27GB = 320.27GB
  • 300x30: 438GB + 30GB + 8.27GB = 476.27GB
  • 1000x100: 1460GB + 100GB + 8.27GB = 1568.27GB

Please note, these figures assume that no tests are skipped due to cross traffic.

How do I install my Whitebox?

The Whitebox is easy to install. Please refer to the installation instructions here.

How do I view my test results?

You can view your test results on the SamKnows One dashboard.

When you sign up, you share your email address and create a password. These are your SamKnows One login details.

You will also be emailed a monthly Report Card, which will summarize your Internet performance results.

What about my privacy?

The focus of this project is to improve America’s Internet performance. To do this, we need to research and understand how Americans all over the country are experiencing Internet usage. This means we need to collect Internet performance data, specifically. That’s it.

Your privacy is paramount and we take it seriously.

The only thing we look at and care about is the performance of your Internet access service. We do not examine your Internet traffic.

The SamKnows Whitebox is specially designed so that it doesn’t disrupt your Internet experience, no matter what you’re doing online.

Performance data collected may be used for the FCC’s regular reports, where performance results collected from Whiteboxes across the the country are analyzed.

Your personal data remains completely anonymous throughout the entire process. The insights and findings from these reports are then used for improving broadband and Internet performance throughout the U.S.

What are my download and upload speed?

Download speed is the speed at which data is transferred from the Internet to your computer. Upload speed is the speed at which data is transferred from your computer to the Internet. Both are measured in megabits per second (Mbps).

The measured download and upload speeds should correspond to the speeds advertized by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) when you purchased your package. You'll have a value for your download speed (e.g. up to 20Mbps) and one for your upload speed (e.g. up to 5Mbps). These can be the same or different. Upload speed is generally lower than download speed.

What are latency and packet loss?

When your data is sent over the Internet it is broken down into little ”packets”. Latency is the total amount of time it takes for a packet of data to travel from your computer to the test server and back to your computer. The lower the latency the better.

Packet loss is the number of packets sent over a network that were unsuccessful in reaching their destination.

Consider some radio static sounds. If there’s a little static, a few words will drop out but you will still be able to figure out what has been said (i.e. low packet loss). But if there's a high volume of static, entire sentences might be missed and you won't be able to understand what has been said. (i.e. high packet loss).

High packet loss will severely impact media services and online gaming applications.

For most use cases, packet loss above 2% will be noticeable by users.

What is ICMP?

The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is a communications protocol for error messages. The purpose of ICMP is to provide basic, but key feedback when communications operations go wrong.

ICMP messages contain three fields of key information: Type, Code, and Checksum. These fields categories the error (Type), assign it an error code (Code) and give the error a unique reference number (Checksum).

Some router and server owners intentionally turn off ICMP functions for added protection against hacker attacks.

The latency and packet loss tests measure the average time for ICMP echo request (in microseconds) from the Whitebox to a target test node.

What is UDP?

A user datagram protocol (UDP) is a computer networking process for sending and receiving communications over an IP network. It is one of the core network technologies in transferring data between points.

UDP – and ICMP – are key elements in connectivity and are used in the Whitebox’ download/upload speed tests, and latency and packet loss tests.

What is IPv6?

IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol version 6. It is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the system of rules that provides an identification and location for computers on networks and directs traffic across the Internet. IPv6 has been built to replace the previous communication protocol, called IPv4. IPv6 is one of the key elements for connectivity and speed tests.

What is DNS resolution?

Internet and its operations exist largely as numbers. We, however, use domain names to access websites, such as www.example.com. This is known as the domain name system (DNS) platform. Websites and internet-connected applications all use the DNS platform to translate these names into IP addresses (e.g., which connect us to the websites and services we’re after.

Our tests measure the effectiveness of an ISP’s DNS platform.

The DNS resolution time and failure rate (UDP) test measures the DNS resolution time of a selection of common website domain names. These tests are targeted directly at the ISP’s network.

What is data usage?

Data usage is the total volume of data used on your broadband connection. The larger your bandwidth, the larger the amount of data available to you.

The Whitebox measures the volume of data used on your network hourly. For example, while you’re out at work and your network is not in active use, hourly data usage volumes could be as low as 200MB or 400MB. When you return home and start using the internet, your usage will be much higher – 5GB or 10GB, for instance.

If you’re concerned about your monthly data cap, please see the "Will my monthly data cap be affected?" article.

What is a traceroute?

The paths that Internet signals take around the internet and your network are not always obvious or logical. A traceroute shows the step-by-step path that internet traffic takes to reach its destination. And this can help diagnosis problems with you broadband service.

We use the open source traceroute client mtr (https://github.com/traviscross/mtr) for carrying out traceroute measurements.

What is web browsing?

Webpages are made up of many different elements on the modern Internet: text, images, videos, animations, page furniture, buttons, and more. And every one of these elements can affect how quickly a webpage loads, and how smoothly you can browse it.

Our web browsing measurements load real pages from real websites to assess browsing performance that users actually see in their homes. We measure the time taken to fetch the HTML and referenced resources from a page of a popular website.

Each Whitebox will test 10 common websites on every test run. The time taken to download the resources, the number of bytes transferred and the calculated rate per second is recorded.

Be part of Measuring Broadband America

Volunteer Now