The nonprofit Consumer Reports has teamed up with a wide range of media, economic, and tech partners to look at the state of Internet access in the US, and they need your help to do it.
Examining the Inequality of Internet Access and Cost
Calling the initiative “Broadband Together”, Consumer Reports hopes to:
[A]nalyze the cost, quality, and speeds that are being delivered to people in communities across the U.S., and to better understand the factors that affect price and why consumers pay different rates for the same service.
CR has paired with a wide range of organizations, such as:
- American Library Association
- Mozilla Foundation
- The Verge
- American Economic Liberties Project
- And many others
You can find a complete listing of their partners and more about the initiative from CR’s press release.
How to Help
If you want to help, it’s a very simple process.
Once you’ve made an account, Consumer Reports will perform a standard upload/download/latency speed test. (Side note: My ISP, Spectrum, scored “below average” on all three metrics!)
After the speed test, you’ll be asked to upload a copy of your latest bill. If you have a paper copy of a bill, you can scan and upload it (must be in PDF format). Or you can go to your ISP’s website and download a PDF copy of your bill. CR says that they will attempt to automatically remove your name and address, but you can markup the PDF to hide that if you’re concerned. (Don’t black out your ZIP code, though, that is needed for the research!)
Once that’s done, you’ll answer a few questions (age, ethnicity, household income), and that’s it! The whole process took under 10 minutes. For me, a good chunk of that was just getting the PDF scanned and uploaded.
Why You Should Do This
The pandemic has shown us a lot of cracks in our public and private institutions (at least here in the US). Unemployment systems that are designed to be confusing, minimum-wage workers being asked to risk their health, the deliberate spreading of misinformation by high-ranking government officials (and “news” channels), and the list goes on.
But the unequal access to reliable, high-speed Internet is one area that isn’t getting all the attention it needs. While many people balk at the idea that high-speed Internet is a “right”, the past year and a half have shown us just how important (and unequally available) it is.
If you’ve ever felt frustrated or pissed off at your ISP, give Consumer Reports some real, hard data to show just how uneven the playing field is.