FCC unveils new broadband tools, first mobile app

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday unveiled two new tools to help consumers test the strength of their broadband connections.

Both arrive just days before the agency is set to release its National Broadband Plan -- the FCC's set of suggestions for how to improve and expand broadband use nationwide.

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The first tool announced Thursday is the Consumer Broadband Test, which allows customers to check the speed and reliability of their connections, according to the FCC.

Information from that test -- available at Broadband.gov -- will then be sent back to the FCC, which will use the test results to gauge broadband use and signal strength nationwide, the agency explained.

The FCC is also offering a mobile version of the tool -- its first mobile app -- for users of Apple's iPhone or Google's Android operating system.

The FCC on Thursday also released its Broadband Dead Zone Report, which encourages Americans to inform the agency of local areas where they cannot purchase broadband coverage. That tool is also available at Broadband.gov, according to the FCC.

In a statement Thursday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said both new tools promote transparency, which "empowers consumers, promotes innovation and investment, and encourages competition."

“The FCC’s new digital tools will arm users with real-time information about their broadband connection and the agency with useful data about service across the country," he said. "By informing consumers about their broadband service quality, these tools help eliminate confusion and make the market work more effectively.”