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Data Privacy FAQ

How will my data be shared?

The Measurement Lab (M-Lab) platform is run by the scientific community. We make all test results publicly available via the MeasurementLab.net website to help promote Internet research. M-Lab's Network Diagnostic Tool collects a number of measures of different facets of your Internet connection. The information published includes each device’s IP address, but does not include personal identifying information about you as an Internet user.

How will my information be secured?

The Quello Center and Merit Network will be responsible for data management related to this project. Data will be maintained and archived in a secure and password-protected repository at servers at Michigan State University. Data and metadata will be provided in accordance with the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) standard for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. All data will be made available in a format that protects anonymity and confidentiality.

How does the Broadband Speed Test work?

The Michigan Broadband Speed Test utilizes the open source test and servers provided by Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a consortium of public interest groups, academic institutions and industry partners, providing an open platform dedicated to Internet performance measurement. When you start a test, your browser opens a connection to the closest M-Lab server. It then exchanges with the server a synthetic stream of data, generated solely for the purpose of measuring your connection at that time. During the test, the server collects around 100 low-level metrics. When the test is completed, the user is shown three of the most accessible measurements: download speed, upload speed, and minimum round trip time.

Why does this test show different results than other tests like speedtest.net?

Internet performance tests may provide different results for a lot of reasons. Three of the main reasons for different results among tests are listed below:

  1. Differences in the location of testing servers

    Every performance test has two parts:

    • Client: This is the software that runs on the user’s machine and shows the user their speed results.
    • Server: This is the computer on the Internet to which the client connects to complete the test.

    A test generates data between the client and the server, and measures performance between these two points. The location of these two points is important in terms of understanding the results of a given test. If the server is located within your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) own network (also known as the “last mile”), this is referred to as an “on-net” measurement. This approach lets you know about how your Internet connection is performing intra-network within your ISP, but it does not necessarily reflect the full experience of using the Internet, which almost always involves using inter-network connections (connections between networks) to access content and services that are hosted somewhere outside of your ISP. Results from on-net testing are often higher than those achieved by using other methods, since the “distance” traveled is generally shorter, and the network is entirely controlled by one provider (your ISP). “Off-net” measurements occur between your computer and a server located outside of your ISP’s network. This means that traffic crosses inter-network borders and often travels longer distances. Off-net testing frequently produces results that are lower than those produced from on-net testing. M-Lab’s measurements are always conducted off-net. This way, M-Lab is able to measure performance from testers’ computers to locations where popular Internet content is often hosted. By having inter-network connections included in the test, test users get a real sense of the performance they could expect when using the Internet.

  2. Differences in testing methods

    Different Internet performance tests measure different things in different ways. M-Lab’s NDT test tries to transfer as much data as it can in ten seconds (both up and down), using a single connection to an M-Lab server. Other popular tests try to transfer as much data as possible at once across multiple connections to their server. Neither method is “right” or “wrong,” but using a single stream is more likely to help diagnose problems in the network than multiple streams would. Learn more about M-Lab’s NDT methodology. All NDT data collected by M-Lab are publicly available in both visualized (graphic), queryable, and raw (unanalyzed) forms.

  3. Changing network conditions and distinct test paths

    The Internet is always changing, and test results reflect that. A test conducted five minutes ago may show very different results from a test conducted twenty minutes ago. This can be caused by the test traffic being routed differently. For example, one test might travel over a path with broken router, while another may not. A test run today may be directed to a test server located farther away than a test run yesterday. Additionally, IPv4 and IPv6 routes may take different physical paths. Some IPv6 routes may be tunneled through IPv4, from the client, or at any point after the client depending on local network management. In short, running one test will give you a sense of network conditions at that moment, across the best network path available at that time, to the specific server coordinating the test. But because Internet routing and infrastructure change dynamically, testing regularly and looking at the data over time are much more reliable ways to gauge representative performance.

What data does this test collect, and how will it be used?

Before you take the test, you will be asked for your location and some basic information about your connection. You can also share what speeds are advertised under your current contract. This data will be stored in a private database, combined with other results, and published to the map and to data.seattle.gov in anonymized form.

This test does not collect information about your other Internet traffic, such as your emails, web searches, etc., or any personally identifiable information. The data it sends across your network is synthetic - meaning it does not come from your device or other applications you are operating - and will be used for measurement only. The speed test data is submitted to M-Lab in aggregated form to assure that the anonymity of users is protected.

What do these results mean?

Your speed test results show the actual upload and download speeds you are experiencing at the time you take the test. Results can vary due to the device you are using, your operating system, the browser you use, the time of day you take the test, whether you are using WiFi or a wired connection, the number of devices connected to the same signal at once, and many other factors. You can take this test as many times as you like, from as many devices and locations as you like. If the speeds you are receiving do not match up to your expectations, you have a number of options.