True to its principle of neutrality and in a bold move to empower the user, Google and the New America Foundation have collaborated to unveil a set of tools to measure Internet connection performance. You do not have to be in the dark any more on the reasons behind your slow Internet or broadband connection. Measurement Lab (M-Lab) is an open platform for broadband customers and researchers to benefit from a sophisticated set of Internet measurement tools. Users who want a diagnosis or insight into their internet connection operations and performance can utilize this new invention. “Transparency is our goal,” said Vint Cerf, chief a co-developer of TCP/IP. “Our intent is to make more [information] visible for all who are interested in the way the network is functioning at all layers.”
MeasurementLab.net, includes a network diagnostic tool, a network path diagnostic tool and a tool to measure whether the user’s broadband provider is slowing BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P-to-P) traffic. One of the most exciting functions of the M-Lab applications (in the future) is to keep the user informed with analysis and reports on whether certain broadband providers are maneuvering traffic by slowing down certain groups or applications. The M-Lab tools also operate under open-source licenses, and users are expected to contribute to their improvement. The M-Lab project is timely in the light of the recent controversy caused by Comcast, the biggest cable modem provider in the US, for shady network management practices. Comcast was ruled to have violated the Federal Communications Commission’s neutrality rules which prohibit the blocking or slowing of Internet traffic by providers.
In a move to let free market runs its course and prevent broadband providers from interfering with traffic flow, this new invention is mind-boggling in its implications. M-Labs compel Internet service providers to be transparent and accountable in their network management processes because users can choose the ISP they want based on the information provided by in this performance measurement tool. However, critics feel that the exclusion of ISP’s to develop the measurement tools have affected their effectiveness. Critics also question the accuracy of the data or analysis provided by M-Labs as it does not take into account slower traffic volume due to malware or other external practices beyond the service provider’s control.
M-Labs are designed with the aim of keeping alive the concept of the Internet as an open platform for everyone and to keep the Internet lean, healthy and robust. They pave the way for more informed users and researchers even at the level of service providers and set in motion the capitalist concept of a free market dictated by demand.