FCC hoping to raise consumer understanding of broadband speeds

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking for new input on what kind of information would be useful to consumers as they choose their broadband service. 

"Our biggest goal here is to establish a general framework that consumers can use to really understand what they are looking at when they go to buy Internet service," Joel Gurin, the FCC consumer bureau chief, said in an interview. 

"We want people to understand megabits per second as easily as miles per gallon," he said. 

Consumers can benefit from information about their service beyond knowing exactly how fast their connection is, said Gurin. 

Latency, for instance, measures the time it takes for an action to get through the network, which can matter to gamers, according to Gurin. Jitter, which is exactly it sounds like, can matter when it comes to online video, he said. 

Consumers sometimes wind up buying Internet service that is faster than they need, and overpaying for it, Gurin said; other times, they buy service that isn't fast enough for their needs. 

Gurin said a range of industry participants is helping the FCC on its initiative. The agency is hoping for input from consumers, application developers and service providers, he said.