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FCC Giving Away Wi-fi Routers For Broadband Tests 196

Posted by samzenpus
from the wireless-handouts dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be giving away 10,000 Wireless-N routers as part of their program to perform a number of broadband tests, for the benefit of a better connection in the future. They are striving to work on improving a number of issues including latency, packet loss, connection speeds and much more."
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FCC Giving Away Wi-fi Routers For Broadband Tests

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  • First post! (Score:4, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {hmryobemag}> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:15PM (#35668342) Journal

    Do I win a free router?

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      Just what I want, my gateway to the internet given to me by a government agency..because they have SUCH a good track record for not snooping around right??

      /tin foilhat
    • by Rasperin (1034758)
      Yes you did! Now, just give me your full name (as seen on your credit card), address to ship it to, and 3 forms of government issued identification to prove you are who you say you are, a passport or social security card will work great! This is for verification, I promise!
  • Making sure everyone has fast, reliable access available is great; but the FCC also has to worry about internet caps! Now that AT&T is cutting people off after a certain amount of bandwidth use, someone with the power to stop this monopolistic abuse needs to flex some muscle. What is the FCC doing about internet caps?

    • Re:caps! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yelvington (8169) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:21PM (#35668404) Homepage

      Making sure everyone has fast, reliable access available is great; but the FCC also has to worry about internet caps! Now that AT&T is cutting people off after a certain amount of bandwidth use, someone with the power to stop this monopolistic abuse needs to flex some muscle. What is the FCC doing about internet caps?

      I'm just guessing, but perhaps it would be wise to first measure and document what the carriers do, as opposed to what they say?

    • by Macrat (638047)

      What is the FCC doing about internet caps?

      Nothing while the bribes keep coming in.

  • by jimbolauski (882977) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:19PM (#35668374) Journal
    My privacy is worth much more then a crappy router that will accidentally send all my browsing information.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My privacy is worth much more then a crappy router that will accidentally send all my browsing information.

      They're the Feds. If you won't turn your browsing activity over for a free gadget, they'll just go to ATT and get it from them.

      • by Zerth (26112)

        They're the Feds. If you won't turn your browsing activity over for a free gadget, they'll just go to ATT and get it from them.

        That statement is especially funny, because in the terms it says anyone using ATT doesn't need to put all their devices behind the testing router, merely connect the router to the ATT gateway.

        Clearly, they don't need to spy on you because ATT is already giving them your traffic so they just need to measure latency.

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:26PM (#35668472)

      My privacy is worth much more then a crappy router that will accidentally send all my browsing information.

      So... What type of sites do you browse that you don't care for the feds to know about? Anime Tentacle Porn usually isn't illegal, you know...

    • by Askjeffro (787652) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:30PM (#35668510)
      I find it cute that you believe you have privacy as it is.
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:34PM (#35668548) Journal

      Yes, the FCC is sending out routers to ten thousand random people because the FCC wants to spy on, uh, ten thousand random people. The government is out to gitcha! RUN! Fucking moron. The government does tons of terrible shit, like giving all the wealth generated by the middle class to about 400 well connected guys, but guess what? This is not one of those terrible things. When you act like a paranoid schizophrenic, and tell everyone the government is ALWAYS out to screw EVERYONE over, ALL THE TIME, you are doing the work those 400 well connected guys want you to do. They want everyone to mistrust the one thing, the only thing that can possibly stop them: the power of people working together, i.e. government. So thanks for that. You do know that even if you were to fellate them 24/7 for the next fifty years, they won't let you into their little club, right?

      • by macraig (621737)

        Hey, I know somebody who knows someone whose ex-wife was once married to one of The 400, so that must make me pretty special!

      • I received my router from SamKnows back in January. I connected the thing through a spare Linux box, and set it up as a free and open wifi access point for the apartment next to me. I then sniffed all the packets going into and out of this connection to see if they were truly using the router to collect information on the volunteers. No dice. This router accesses the SAME urls, protocols, and IP addresses every day, most of the data being openly available to view; RTP streams are garbage from what I can tel

      • by geekoid (135745)

        actually, it does some terrible shit, and a lot of shit people don't understand so they assume it's bad. Most of what they do is good.

      • The "power of the people" stopped giving a shit many moons ago. What makes you think "the people" care now? Where were they when they had a chance to elect, other than straight party line? Where were they when our media doles out a symphony of BS soundbites? Where were they when our Government decays right before their collective eyes?

        Where were they when they had a chance to hold our elective officials accountable?!!! Can you really trust them now? Where's the damn accountability among individuals? If we d

        • by spun (1352)

          More blame the victim mentality from the master of the craft.

          "Your Honor, if it please the court, the supposed victim known as "the people" was not only dressed in a "screw me over" outfit, they practically BEGGED the accused Fat Cat to give it to them good and hard. The people let themselves be screwed over because they must have WANTED it like that! My client, Mr. Fat Cat, was only giving the people the proper screwing they so obviously desired. Did 'the people' struggle? Did they resist? Not that I notic

    • by misxn (901438)

      My privacy is worth much more then a crappy router that will accidentally send all my browsing information.

      Your local grocery knows more about you than the government.

    • Actually, you need to return the router when you're done with it.
  • by crow_t_robot (528562) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:24PM (#35668446)
    Every slashdot user is disqualified:

    They have extended their research efforts to the public, but there are some minor requirements which need to be met. For example, your connection must be consistent (suffer very few disconnections), users must be considered average Internet browsers and not heavy downloaders [...]

    • by macraig (621737)

      The reason for that qualification isn't pejorative, it's practical: the device needs useful idle periods during which it can perform tests and report the results. If the router is constantly active 24/7 with, say, BitTorrent traffic, then the router never gets to "get a word in edgewise" and there'd be no data to report.

      • by ThinkWeak (958195)
        I'm not exactly versed on what is considered to be a "heavy downloader". I can see if you have a ton of BitTorrent traffic constantly traveling on your connection, but what about video game playing, streaming movies, etc. That's not 24/7, but it is generally during peak traffic. Isn't that when you would want to run your tests?
        • by macraig (621737)

          Nope. It just needs idle periods. It doesn't matter what time of day those periods are. The router performs its own tests; it doesn't monitor or use the actual user traffic in any way, AFAIK (and I'm a participant).

          • by ThinkWeak (958195)
            I guess I don't understand the purpose of this study. Granted it will probably identify if there is NEVER a point in time in the day when your internet connection reaches the advertised speed, but ideally I would like to see them do something about traffic speeds during normal hours. I don't care if my internet connection reaches above (or beyond) the advertised rates between the hours of 2:00am EST and 6:00am EST or 1:00pm EST to 4:00pm EST. I want it to perform at its advertised level when I'm home or
            • by macraig (621737)

              Well, you might be right that it only phones home during idle periods. It may be gathering some stats all the time. Come to think of it, my online "dashboard" suggests that might be true.

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      Heavy is such a vague term. I'm not doing any torrenting, and plan not to download Ubuntu 11 ISO's this quarter.

      Even then, I just installed DD-WRT last friday night and was the bandwidth counters show 0.5 to 1GB incoming out of daily flash video, mostly youtubing from the non-geek living with me. I seem to recall /. comments that our USA smartphones are normally capped at 2GB / MONTH. So do they really want only old-lady type users who only write e-mails and never even 'listen to music'? (which unbeknownst

  • Geez, somebody is late to the party... I've had one for months now. I still haven't figgered out what to do with my old DGL-4300 router, though.

    BTW, if you read the actual agreement you will notice that it doesn't guarantee that participants will be allowed to keep the router. The text of the agreement clearly leaves open the possibility that SamKnows might repossess the routers, though it is probably impractical for them to do so (thus the extra-contractual assurances about keeping them).

    • I still haven't figgered out what to do with my old DGL-4300 router, though.

      Use it as a repeater or a second roamable AP to extend the range of your wireless network. Or install HSMM-MESH on one and join your WLAN into a mesh if there's one nearby.

      • by macraig (621737)

        I don't think the DGL-4300 can use any custom firmware, and it's only 802.11*g*, in any case (the WNR3500L is 802.11n, and I upgraded my laptop because of it).

  • by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:32PM (#35668532) Journal

    It is a simple program. I plugged in the Netgear router in between my firewall and my cable modem and configured it as a bridge. It analyzes the traffic and sends the information to the FCC.

    I love how some people here are whining about privacy. I think those people will whine about anything. What is the alternative? The data needs to be collected. Either you want the government to step in and regulate the telcos, or you don't. If you don't, then STFU and stop whining about the crappy service they are giving you. If you do, then realize you have to be part of the solution. Whining about it never fixed anything. At some point, someone has to collect some data.

    If you don't want to participate in the program, don't. On the other hand, I'm happy to know that the FCC is getting some real data to show that when I fire up my VPN client from home to do some work, everything else on the network (NetFlix, et al) gets throttled back to next to nothing. I'm happy to be a guinea pig so that the FCC an see that the supposedly "faster" connection that I'm paying for is not really any faster than the basic package.

    If you're doing something with your internet connection that the government cares about, they already know about you. Participating in some research is not going to suddenly put you on their radar. Your browsing history is a lot less interesting to most people than you think it is. The country is involved in two wars and the economy is crumbling around us. Do you really think the government cares if you want to wank off to www.fatmomfetish.com, or whatever other "super secret private" stuff you are doing with your internet connection? Running a Tor exit node? Seeding the latest movie rip? Ooooo, you crazy rebels you!

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      For anyone interested, Their privacy policy is here [testmyisp.com]. They have done a good job of explaining what they are doing.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      I had to quickly replace my router last year when it died and I'm not terribly happy with the one I ended up with. What model did they give you?

      • by dave562 (969951)

        I can check the model when I get home. It's their high-end home / small office router. GigE, Wireless-N. It's stable. I've never had to reboot it.

        • by sdguero (1112795)
          Thanks for the heads up! I signed up this morning and my friends are giving me flak for it now. Your post is reassuring...
          • by dave562 (969951)

            The program seems to be a good one. If you want to, you can completely replace your router with the one they send you. I decided to put mine outside of the firewall because I don't like the idea of having some random device inside the perimeter.

          • by OverlordQ (264228)

            Mine was a Netgear WNR3500L

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Three wars. Plus whatever it is we call fighting off the massive misinformation campaign that is the GOP.

    • Bonus: After the test is over you can install a DD-WRT Linux firmware on the Netgear WNR3500L in order to flush any tracking software and have fully customizable router...

      My Linksys WRT54GL with DD-WRT is pretty sweet -- I even added a multi-player Tetris game (ssh or telnet + ncurses), and usage graphs for individual services, like TOR, my private GIT repository, my g/f's WOW, etc. I can only drool over the possibilities enabled by having a USB port available.

      Sign me up.

      P.S. It would be interestin

  • Why wouldn't it be the ISP collecting these statistics (as part of end-to-end monitoring and customer support reduction), and the FCC perhaps requiring that they be given a copy to stay aware of and create these regulations from?
    • by greywire (78262)

      Do you really trust your ISP to give you the full bandwidth they are overselling, er, I mean, selling you? And then you think they would collect statistics voluntarily and hand that over to someone else who might then tell them they are not providing the service they advertise?

      Yeah, I believe in fairies too. I do believe in fairies, I do believe..

      PS yeah its a cheap Netgear router. But it can run dd-wrt. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to flash it, since I do I want them to get the information they are

      • Just depends how many levels you want to take it. The FCC could require them, via legislation, right?

        Do you trust the ISP to identify these routers very quickly, either by traffic analysis or MAC address, and provide a special Quality of Service just for them?

        • by greywire (78262)

          well, of course, its nicer I think to see it done voluntarily (between the users and the fcc in this case with the help of a router manufacturer) rather than having legislation (never mind the time it would take to do, the money involved, etc).

          And thats an interesting point.. I wonder if its possible (or rather, feasible or practical) to detect whatever the SamKnows firmware is doing (I assume its communicating information directly to some server) and then compensate for that by giving those users better ac

    • by MikeURL (890801)

      I was going to ask the same question but then I answered my own question. It is not a bad idea to have a system that keeps the ISPs honest.

      One would hope the FCC already gets usage stats from ISPs and that this additional data will just be a reality check to make sure the data is legit.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Because that really wouldn't be a trusted source now, would it?

      Why don't we just ask the fox how many chickens we have?

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      ISP's lie.

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:38PM (#35668594)

    The FCC is making much fuss and noise about "digital inclusion" and whatnot, but no one at any level is willing to talk about the fact that most of the country has two or less options in broadband. During the summer of love (2002, IIRC), the big telecoms took advantage of deregulation to divide up the broadband market by city, and it's been higher prices, lower caps and no new pipe in ten yearsever since. Verizon FiOS is dead. Wireless is consolidating. It's permanent monopoly time, and the FCC just keeps talking about broadband maps and Internet literacy training (?!) as the solution.

    Here's a better answer: bring back common carrier rules for backbone service rates, and let the local ISPs (remember those?) come back to life. Pass network neutrality. Ban the ownership of both content services and pipes. Lay some city-owned dark fiber and let the private sector bid to operate it. It ain't rocket science, but it will require standing up to Comcast and AT&T.

  • I am sure it is already happening, but 10,000 applications have probably already been filled out.

  • by name_already_taken (540581) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:38PM (#35668598)

    I have one of these devices. It's plugged into a port on a managed switch and doesn't see any of my traffic; basically it has access to the Internet connection and that's it.

    There's a site at http://reporting.samknows.com/ [samknows.com] that I can log into and see graphs of the test results, which are:

    • Website load times in seconds
    • Latency in milliseconds
    • Packet loss in %
    • Web Downloads Multi-Threaded in Mbps
    • Video streaming in seconds to buffer and seconds of delay
    • Downstream throughput in Mbps
    • Upstream throughput in Mbps
    • DNS response time in milliseconds
    • Failed web requests in %
    • Failed DNS requests in %
    • RTP Packet Loss in %
    • RTP Jitter in milliseconds

    All these stats are graphed daily.

    I have U-Verse, and the instructions state that with U-Verse you just plug the device into a switch port and plug nothing else into it. They probably don't want the U-Verse video traffic running through it. I also disabled its wifi, since it wasn't necessary.

    • Forget that it also graphs VoIP Call Jitter, up and down in milliseconds.

      Presumably these stats are the results of its own testing, as I'm not using VoIP.

  • How much data is sent/received for the tests? I wouldn't want to hit my monthly cap...

    Also, how long before the ISPs are able to uniquely identify traffic from/to these particular routers, and will "traffic shape" accordingly? I'm guessing more than one ISP employee has one to experiment on...

    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      Could try reading the linked page.

      From the FAQ [testmyisp.com]:

      Our units involved in the FCC project transfer a large amount of data, which varies according to the speed of your connection. The usage on a 10Mbps connection will be around 20GB/month, and will likely be around 60GB on a 50Mbps connection. The amount that's downloaded is speed dependant (so a slower connection will use less traffic than a faster connection).

      If you're on a product with a low cap then we'd advise against signing up, or at least informing us bef

    • by socz (1057222)
      apparently, its quite a bit but they say they'll reduce it for slower speeds. I saw something like 20GB per month.
  • Not really related (well, sort of), but it looks like Kansas City, Kansas are the lucky winnars! [blogspot.com] of the Google Community Fiber project.

  • Lots of comments about waste of money, etc., but it depends on what and how it works.

    First off: without some independent metrics, how is the FCC to gain an understanding of the status of broadband quality? Sure they can infer somethings from stats provided by ISPs but I am sure there are all kinds of issues with using secondhand data from parties with vested interests.

    Given that the FCC should have an independent understanding of broadband deployment and quality in the US, then sticking 10,000 data collect

  • while I dont like the idea of a government router, I do like the idea that the government is trying to measure the speed consumers are actually receiving. So I'm going to say this is a good thing. If you're concerned about your privacy, don't sign up. If not, do us all a favor and help them do this measurement.
  • This has been going on for quite a while now [broadband.gov], they've already shipped a bunch of routers, mines been hooked up for a few months already.

  • by Galaga88 (148206) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @02:06PM (#35668932)

    I have one of these already. It's a NETGEAR WNR3500L. I've not seen any impact on my connection quality. Quite the contrary, I've used its reporting functions twice already in trying to get my ISP to track down connection quality issues at their end.

    It keeps a running log of your ping, throughput, packet loss, etc. which you can access freely through their website. I was able to use this to document periods of latency spikes and massive packet loss.

    I guess if you think the FCC is taking a particularly convoluted route to spy on me, rather than just, tapping in at the ISP itself, you're free to do that. I'll just think you're probably more than a bit daft.

  • If by "given away" you mean spending tax dollars on...

  • Read the TOS you agree to. they want them back when done of if you dont set it up for them. and you agree to not hack it or reverse engineer it.

  • Old news, and it was even posted on Slashdot when the program started last summer. I've been running an FCC White Box for several months now and love it. The router is a high quality Netgear with QoS filtering and all the bells and whistles you expect out of a $100+ router. It beats the ever living crap out of my old Belkin Wireless N. The tracking software doesn't monitor actual sites or any actual private information. Just packet loss, ping times, download and upload speeds, streaming stability, voip stability, etc. The graphs and charts it spits out are extremely useful and I've been using them for the past 2 months when complaining to Mediacom about my slow speeds, packet loss, and horrible ping times. It keeps 2 weeks of hourly data, and after that just tracks it as an average/min/max for the day. http://i53.tinypic.com/35bt5ro.jpg [tinypic.com]
  • Great! Just in time for my ISP to throttle its competitors when the FCC fails to impose Net Neutrality, which it can do without having to buy 10,000 pieces of equipment.

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