Google M-Lab provides a window into your ISP

* Google's Internet measurement effort has potential

Measuring the speed of your Internet connection and figuring out just how your ISP handles certain types of traffic has always been difficult to do accurately. Now Google, which has always been interested in Net neutrality, is stepping in with a solution to the problem.

Google isn't doing it alone. It's bringing friends, including the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and academic researchers. The group has created Measurement Lab, or M-Lab, which Google describes as an open platform for which Internet measurement tools can be developed.

Network World bloggers Peter Sevcik and Rebecca Wetzel discuss the three tools available now and some of the tools that are planned. The first tools out of the gate include a speed and diagnostic test developed by Internet2, a tool that tries to figure out whether your ISP is blocking or throttling BitTorrent traffic, and a tool that diagnoses common problems affecting the last mile.

Google says these tools are "still in development" and will support a limited number of simultaneous users. When I tried the tools they were overloaded.

What makes the Google effort potentially powerful, though, is that Google is offering up servers in diverse locations to make the measurements to users' computers. Over 2009, Google will provide 36 servers in 12 locations in the United States and Europe.

Plus, Google says it will make all the data collected available to other researchers for further enhancements. The effort is really in keeping with Google's philosophy that more information is a good thing. And by collecting the data and sharing it, we could end up with a better understanding of how the Internet is actually working - and that understanding could lead to large-scale improvements.

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