Complementary Realities: Public Domain Internet Measurements in the Development of Canada’s Universal Access Policies
26 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2017 Last revised: 16 Aug 2017
Date Written: March 29, 2017
This paper evaluates public domain Internet performance measurements available for characterizing the state of connectivity and developing universal access service quality standards in Canada. As access to the Internet has become more essential to social and economic participation, public domain Internet measurements have become an indispensable tool for users to validate quality of service their network operator delivers and for policymakers to identify and address gaps in broadband infrastructure. Unfortunately, most data about Internet performance remains in the private domain. Furthermore, due to their distinctive methodologies, different sources of broadband speed measurements can generate inconsistent results both in terms of absolute performance metrics and in relative terms. This creates a significant problem for validating service level agreements by users and minimum standards of universal service policymakers are increasingly adopting around the world. In contrast to previous debates about which testing approach is more or less “realistic”, we argue that distinctive approaches to Internet measurement should be viewed as complementary windows into a complex and fast evolving reality of broadband connectivity. We explore how “big data” and “small data” approaches to measurement can complement each other in universal access standard setting. Despite their potential shortcomings, large scale crowdsourced open data network testing platforms have a central role to play in enabling broadband infrastructure policy coordination across different levels of government, empowering consumers, and validating speed and universal service quality standards.
Keywords: Internet Measurement, Performance, Broadband Policy
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