FCC to Unveil Mobile Speed Test App

Also unanimously votes to east foreign ownership limits

The Federal Communications Commission entered the app world today, unveiling the FCC Speed Test app, a cute tool that allows consumers to check out their mobile speeds and answers questions about their wireless service. Rolling out first for Android, the FCC promises an iOS version soon. The FCC hopes the app will help consumers make decisions about the wireless service and coax wireless providers to work on delivering faster speeds and better services.

“I just left a venture capital firm investing in applications like this,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler during his first meeting heading up the commission. “If we’re going to make fact-based decisions, we need facts. We’re seeking feedback, it’s always going to be improving.”

A handy tool for consumers, the app will also help the agency evaluate mobile broadband network performance as part of its program to measure broadband and provide information on broadband performance in the U.S.

Because privacy is such a hot-button issue these days, commissioner Aji Pai (R) assured people during the meeting that the FCC’s app does not collect personally identifiable information.

The FCC also voted unanimously to accept a declaratory ruling to ease limits on foreign broadcast ownership. It clarifies that the FCC is willing to consider, on a case by case basis, foreign investment in broadcast ownership that exceeds the 25 percent cap.

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, with support from more than 30 civil rights and broadcast groups, has petitioned the commission to enact the reform for the past nine years, as a way to give minority broadcast owners better access to much-needed capital.

“At long last,” said commissioner Pai, who worked on the ruling with former acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn (D) and commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (D).

Applauding the first vote of his commission, the telecom-savvy Wheeler managed to turn a simple vote into a statement about the global economy and spectrum, which will dominate the agency’s work as it works on implementing the upcoming auction of wireless spectrum next year.

“I’d like to focus on efficient use of spectrum,” Wheeler said when he explained that the FCC’s review of foreign ownership cases would consider national security issues, media diversity, localism and spectrum. “Spectrum is the sine qua non in considering applications … in an environment recognizing we’re in a major effort to improve spectrum efficiency,” Wheeler said.

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