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Calling All ‘Test My ISP’ Participants (And Those Who Want to Be)

Phillip Dampier January 18, 2011 Broadband Speed, Editorial & Site News 12 Comments

Netgear's N300 Router

Test My ISP is a project underway in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission and SamKnows, a broadband testing firm that has an excellent record in the United Kingdom, where it has been testing ISP claims vs. actual performance for a few years now.

Some of our readers decided to enroll in the ongoing speed test after reading an earlier article about the project, and it appears some of our readers have started receiving their test equipment — a Netgear N300 (WNR3500L) Gigabit Wireless Router — this week.

They are still accepting volunteers, and getting approved to participate appears to be easier than one might think (although it may be several weeks before you hear back).  All they ask is that you install their equipment in place of, or in tandem with your existing router, and allow it to “call home” occasional speed measurement results (which you can also monitor yourself) from time to time.  At the end of the three-year program, participants get to keep the wireless N router.

If you are a participant, we’d love to hear about your experiences in our comment section.  Have you been able to see the results of your own tests?  How do they compare with the speeds ISPs claim you will get in their marketing?

By the way, some reviews on the router are spotty, with the most frequent problems being:

  • Limited range wireless
  • Wireless connection drops frequently, requiring reset
  • Auto-configuration does not work well
  • Support comes from an Indian call center that never deviates from a script

Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Currently there are 12 comments on this Article:

  1. I have this router and am using it with U-Verse. The U-Verse set-up instructions are fairly unique, since the router can’t replace the U-Verse residential gateway, the test router basically just sits as a device on the network, and only is used for running the automated speed tests.

    I’ve been running for about a week now, and it is pretty impressive from a broadband geek perspective. You get a ton of data, in both graphical and tabular form, and you get to export if you need to so you can run more complex analysis locally should you wish.

    The tests include down/up speeds, packet loss, jitter, DNS, several HTML/web specific tests, and so on.

    As far as how the speeds compare, I pay for 24/3 from AT&T, and my speeds have average about 22.5/2.9 which is realistically about as good as I expected.

    • From what I have seen from others, most seem to be running the device in tandem with their existing routers and not relying exclusively on the Netgear device.

      Having seen the new Netgear control panel, it’s light years ahead of what this company used to produce. I have never been that impressed with Netgear routers, preferring Linksys/Cisco myself, and looking at the Netgear router supplied with this test, which does not have external wireless antennas, I wouldn’t be surprised if the wireless performance is not as good as some others.

      I know a whole mess of these test routers ended up in Webster, NY — a suburb of Rochester and will be run by Time Warner Cable customers. Webster is one of the most congested TW areas, with speeds 1-3Mbps during the evening. I wonder what that will do to TW’s grade in this area.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m currently a SamKnows/Test My ISP participant (Comcast in Reading, MA). Router set up was easy, and I haven’t had any issues with the equipment. Everything has been straight forward and easy to comprehend. I consider this a great way to participate in keeping the ISP’s honest.

    • I will be amused to see what some of our nation’s phone company DSL service providers end up scoring. I can’t imagine many of them will do particularly well, although I suspect most of the avid applicants to this testing program probably wouldn’t tolerate those kinds of speeds if they had a choice.

      I urge rural folks with or without DSL to apply. They are searching high and low for rural applicants and I am positive the results will call out the need for far better broadband in these places.

  3. Dave Hancock says:

    I was one of the first to install their “Sam Knows” boxes back in October. Initially, this appeared to be a real joke – nothing worked the way that their lame instructions said it should. Their initial information indicated that this would just be a black box connected between my internet connection and my own router. That way set-up would be minimal, and my internal network would not be impacted. But when the box came it was clear that they really wanted me to replace my existing wireless router with theirs. I didn’t want to do this for various reasons.

    There were lots of e-mails back and forth to London (England) and finally arrangements were made to talk to Sam Crawford (yes, the “Sam” of “SamKnows”) at what was likely the middle of the night for him. He eventually got me squared away, and more importantly, got their instructions for setting it up as a pure black box squared away.

    Since then things have been fine.

  4. Big Dan says:

    I received my test box last Friday and hooked it up. For one reason or another I couldn’t get internet access at first through the new Router. Once I rebooted my cable modem and the new router it was fine.

    The data you get on the reporting is awesome. It notices my connection being down when I’m not using it. This router is a considerable upgrade for me going from a 5 year old Linksys. My favorite feature is the guest wireless network.

    The change in routers has been unremarkable. I don’t notice my laptop or streaming device’s Wifi any faster. It’s just chugging along doing its job so far.

  5. Juan Roman says:

    I’ve been using the router as my main router and it was pretty easy to set up. My isp is Windstream and not that I expect them to do much, but my average download speed are terrible compared to what I’m suppose to be getting. I really hope the FCC uses this info to light a fire under these ISPs that are not performing up to advertised speeds. I’m in a rural area in North Florida. The samknows website gives you a ton of information.

  6. Austin says:

    Just accepted the terms and conditions they sent me in an email, the said I would get the router in the mail in 3-5 days. (I signed up quite awhile ago, they accepted me, I didn’t realize I had to click something in the email to get the device sent to me)

    I know I can used this in tandem with my e2000 router, but it has been giving me nothing but trouble. I used to love Linksys, using noting but Linksys since 2003, but this last router I got has spratic issues with cutting my speed in half, if I reboot the router all is well, searching online many others have this issues with the e2000, with no fix yet released by linksys.

    I may end up using the Router that testmyisp.com sends me as my main router.

    I have the Uverse 18/1.5 plan, I get 16/1.4 on most of my tests, we will see what the testmyisp device will say soon.

    I would buy the 24/3 plan from att uverse, but I am too far from my vrad. 🙁 (And they refuse to pairbond me here, when others on my same vrad do use pairbonding. )

    I was surprised they accepted me, I made it clear that I download use over 30gb a month in both directions. And I live in a town of 60000, I am not rual. I applied just because I am curious about how ISP’s stack up, and I like to feel like I can be a part of improving this nations horrible internet situation.

  7. Carl L says:

    Just wonder if anyone has had a problem trying to get router replaced. I questioned Samsknows about some wild readings I was getting about my ISP and they said the router was bad and it would be replaced. They sent me return slip to send back to UK – I live in the USA and I questioned that and they never answered. They then sent email asking how the new router worked??? and said they turned the problem over to their engineers??? I have send many emails to them asking what I am to do and they will not answer – anybody got any ideas ???- I give up.

  8. cal680 says:

    Did as you suggested Phillip and still no answer. Maybe they have gone out of business. ALso I have never got any answers from all the first emails I have sent them.

  9. Eric says:

    I’ve been using the SamKnows router as my primary router since the project launched. I really like the personal webpage you get to view the performance of your ISP.

    The devices tests downstream throughput every 2 hours and website load times every 1 hour to give you an example of what the device is doing. It provides excellent information ranging from DNS response, times, download and upload speed, packet loss, jitter, and latency.

    I’ve updated the firmware on the device one time so far, and the router has worked flawlessly. I have it paired with a Motorola Surfboard 6121 (Docsis 3.0) cable modem on Comcast.

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