Google has stepped up its campaign to keep consumers informed about the quality and neutrality of their connections by launching M-Lab: a platform for monitoring internet connections.

Google insists that sustaining the internet as an "open platform for consumer choice and innovation" is of paramount importance. It believes that consumers should be able to discern if their Internet Service Provider (ISP) is providing sufficient quality connections, or using any kind of traffic management to block applications.

"When an internet application doesn't work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP, the application, your PC, or something else?" asks Google's internet evangelist, Vint Cerf.

"It can be difficult for experts, let alone average internet users, to address this sort of question today.

"Last year we asked a small group of academics about ways to advance network research and provide users with tools to test their broadband connections. Today Google, the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and academic researchers are taking the wraps off of Measurement Lab (M-Lab), an open platform that researchers can use to deploy Internet measurement tools."

Focal point for research

M-Lab will bring researchers together enabling them to accurately monitor internet connections and share their data, but it will also provide an obvious focal point for average users to openly discuss ISP-related issues.

"Researchers are already developing tools that allow users to, among other things, measure the speed of their connection, run diagnostics, and attempt to discern if their ISP is blocking or throttling particular applications.

"These tools generate and send some data back-and-forth between the user's computer and a server elsewhere on the Internet. Unfortunately, researchers lack widely-distributed servers with ample connectivity. This poses a barrier to the accuracy and scalability of these tools. Researchers also have trouble sharing data with one another."

Trouble ahead?

Google's new venture is likely to cause conflict with ISPs, although the company is insistent it's simply doing the right thing.

"At Google, we care deeply about sustaining the internet as an open platform for consumer choice and innovation.

"No matter your views on net neutrality and ISP network management practices, everyone can agree that internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they're getting when they sign up for broadband, and good data is the bedrock of sound policy.

"Transparency has always been crucial to the success of the internet, and, by advancing network research in this area, M-Lab aims to help sustain a healthy, innovative internet."