Republicans accuse FCC of wasting money on Internet speed tests


"That stimulus funding, meant to help here at home, was sent abroad to a U.K. company SamKnows and — according to the Recovery.Gov website — created no jobs," the lawmakers wrote. "What was the rationale for sending Americans' hard earned money overseas for a project that didn't put any Americans to work, especially in the current fiscal climate?"

The FCC first began testing whether broadband service providers were meeting their advertised speeds last year. The Internet providers' performance in 2012 improved significantly over the 2011 results.

The FCC now plans to begin measuring the speeds of cellphone service providers.

The Republican lawmakers said the mobile speed study is "likely to be even less meaningful in light of technical challenges." They noted that mobile speeds can vary from minute-to-minute based on numerous factors, including foliage interfering with the signal.

“We’re mystified by this attack on transparency and consumer empowerment," an FCC spokesman said. "The Measuring Broadband America initiative is a powerful example of the pro-market, pro-competition benefits of information disclosure: Low performers in the first year’s report responded by investing in significant network upgrades that drove major improvements in performance and faster speeds for millions of Americans, which creates jobs both directly and indirectly.”

Walden, who signed the letter and chairs the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said last year that the FCC's process leading to its report on broadband speeds was "exemplary."

"The Commission selected a commercial vendor through open, competitive bids; used a transparent process to partner with stakeholders; and leveraged its technical expertise. As a result, the Commission and its partners designed and completed a path-breaking study helpful to all broadband consumers. Just as important, the Commission recognized the limits of its work and declined to make conclusions where its data were too limited," he said at the time, before going on to criticize the FCC's rules for handling TV program-carriage complaints.