New Internet speed tool goes local

Indepedent Internet connection speed tests will provide more accurate results for research institutions via AARNet servers

University and research institution Internet service provider (ISP), AARNet, and Google have jointly begun hosting servers to facilitate the Measurement Lab (M-Lab) Internet speed measurement tool.

The Australian servers, which provides bandwidth of up to 1Gbps for the tests, are the first local outpost for the research institution, which now runs 45 servers in 15 different locations. The tool was most notably used by the US Federal Communications Commissions (FCC), which recently launched its "Test My ISP" website to help US consumers gain "reliable and accurate statistics" on their broadband connections.

AARNet chief executive officer, Chris Hancock, said in a statement that the ISP offered its servers "to improve the transparency of the Internet" through the tools. The measurement tool is the latest in a raft of services and applications the provider has begun hosting on its servers, including a federated login service, a multi-party videoconferencing application and an alternative to Rapidshare for extremely large files.

The provider has continued to focus on bolstering its nationwide fibre network, with network upgrades set to deliver 10Gbps speeds to universities and research institutions, and speeds of up to 8Tbps for key projects like the Australia and New Zealand Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bid.

While Google has also participated in the local hosting of the measurement tool, the search giant has traditionally remained silent on the location or capability of its Australian servers.

"Transparency has always been crucial to the success of the Internet, and, by advancing network research and empowering users with more information, we hope that M-Lab will help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet," Google Australia head of network engineering, Phillip Grasso-Nguyen, said.

Unlike the popular speedtest.net measurement tool, which simply measures and collates international downstream and upstream speed measurement, the Measurement Lab tools test connection speeds as well as potential problems and bottlenecks on an Internet connection. In addition, Measurement Lab tools offer tests for individual application-specific throttling such as P2P and Flash video.

However, the tools aren't entirely comprehensive. For instance, the BitTorrent tool defaults to port 6881 for its tests when, in reality, the majority of P2P clients randomise the used port, or use a port other than the specified standard.

We got 2.52 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream speeds with 3.75 Mbps upstream speeds at the Computerworld Australia offices, with a 10 Mbps Ethernet subnet bottleneck. Post your results below.

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