Regardless of whether you’re for net neutrality, against it, don’t care about it, or don’t know what it is, M-Lab should still be of interest. Why? Because if you’re like most consumers, you want:
A) To know what you’re paying for
B) To get what you’re paying for
M-Lab was founded by New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, Google Inc. and academic researchers and finally provides a means of gathering metrics and statistics regarding what ISPs are actually offering in terms of speed and access (application, protocol, or user-based filtering/delaying) on their networks. This transparency should have been a given for educated consumers, but it has largely been abstracted and restricted away by bullying ISPs. M-Lab seeks to fix that. Right now, three tools are available to restore some of the transparency to the Internet and the consumers of broadband connections:
Network Diagnostic Tool – Test your connection speed and receive sophisticated diagnosis of problems limiting speed.
Glasnost – Test whether BitTorrent is being blocked or throttled.
Network Path and Application Diagnosis – Diagnose common problems that impact last-mile broadband networks.
Here are some screenshots of Glasnost in action. A java application is loaded in the browser to emulate a BitTorrent transfer.
And some good news for Comcast and Comcast subscribers:
Along with these tools, two more are said to be in the works.
DiffProbe – Determine whether an ISP is giving some traffic a lower priority than other traffic.
NANO – Determine whether an ISP is degrading the performance of a certain subset of users, applications, or destinations.
Right now the servers are getting a lot of traffic as the press covers the M-Lab debut. You may have to make a few attempts to get a test to run for you. The number of servers implemented and locations where they are implemented is said to increase in early 09.
Along with these tools, the site also provides a nifty link to other resources that provide similar or specialized functionality.
While these tools are very helpful to consumers, the main goal and benefit of M-Lab goes to benefit research. By running these tests, not only are you finding out the information about your connection, but the information is also being submitted to a database open to researchers so they might benefit from mapping the Internet and finding speed and application dead-ends. This information can easily help shape the future of the internet and broadband development world-wide.
Visit M-Lab and find out more about your network and contribute to research.