Does it make a difference to my speed test if I connect over WiFi or through a Hard-Wired device? Which should I use?
There will be a difference between tests conducted on a hard-wired device and a device over WiFi. We recommend you test in your most common configuration. For example, your most common configuration could be on a laptop that is connected to WiFi or on a desktop that has a hard-wired connection.
What if my internet slows down at certain times of day? Should I test my speed multiple times?
There are many factors that go into the speed that our speed test registers. There might be some variance in connection speed based on how many other people are using the internet near you on the same service, and that can vary based on time. The speed test is only one part of the data we are collecting and is not a conclusive measurement. Feel free to check your speed at different times for your own information, and to see if the speed test can verify what feels like changes in your day-to-day usage.
Should I turn my VPN off when completing a speed test?
Yes! Please turn off your VPN before conducting the speed test. A VPN directs your web traffic through a third party server which can often slow your speed, sometimes dramatically. Turning your VPN off will give a more accurate picture of your average connection.
If you are interested in seeing just how much your VPN ends up throttling your connectivity, you can try toggling your VPN on and off and running an independent speed test here.
What does my speed test say about my internet and how do I know if I am above or below national averages?
When comparing your results to national averages, it’s important to make sure you’re comparing your result to data from the same kind of test. You can read more about what NDT measures on Measurement Lab’s website. You can also find the national averages according to NDT and other datasets on the NTIA Indicator’s of Broadband Need map. Finally, to understand what speeds you are eligible for and should be able to receive at home (though performance can differ depending on a variety of factors), check the speeds your internet service provider indicates on your bill.
Why does CR need my bill to understand what is actually paid for Broadband internet? Can I just report the total amount?
We’re using the bills to understand the total amount each individual pays while also looking for ways that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are making pricing information unnecessarily confusing, bundling products, or hiding fees. This information is critical to how we will analyze equity and clarity from ISPs.
We’re also using the bill to be absolutely sure that the information we’re gathering is correct - while some consumers are aware of what terms like Mb/s mean, many others are new to this space and we want to be sure that we’re getting accurate data.
I can't find a PDF version of my bill. How do I download my bill?
To find a PDF copy of your bill, you can log in to your account using these links. We’ve listed the largest providers here.
Step 1: In most cases, go to your internet service provider’s website (create an account or log into your existing account) to find your most recent bill.
Step 2: Usually, clicking on the bill will give you the option to download it. Most of the time it will already be in the PDF format that we need.
Step 3: Some companies automatically email you a copy of your bill each month, already in PDF format. Check your inbox if you’re having trouble logging into your account.
Why are you asking for a PDF of the bill (as opposed to a picture or a physical copy)?
We’re asking for a portable document format (PDF) copy of your bill because we’re working with a unique technology that can extract the key data elements relevant to pricing automatically and securely with only this file format.
What other formats do you accept for bill submissions?
While we prefer PDFs, we can accept other image formats (e.g., .PNG, or .JPG) via our microsite form.
If you do not have access to a scanner or a digital version of your bill, you may still submit your bill by mailing it to
c/o Cody Feng
101 Truman Ave,
Yonkers, NY, 10703
We may use these bills at a different stage of the project than those submitted digitally. If you choose to mail us a physical copy of your bill, please use a permanent marker to black out phone number, security code/PIN, account number, billing information (other than your zip code, which we need!), past due amounts or other personally identifying information.
I have a “bundle” that includes internet service and other things like cable TV or phone service. Does that matter?
That’s ok! Submit your bill anyway. One of the things we’re trying to ascertain in this study is the “true” cost of internet service, so we’ll go through and separate out the various costs for different services as best we can.
How is data collected?
We enable volunteers to share data about their internet service, and themselves, through the Fight for Fair Internet microsite.
Consumer Reports takes privacy very seriously and actively works to secure your personal information. When you upload your bill, the files will be encrypted to help ensure that the information is protected and secure. Further, our analysis will only record relevant data such as price, bundle, speed, and hidden fees for further investigation. Our analytical tools will not record or store personal information from your bill. We will delete bills when they’re no longer needed.
What data is collected, and how is it stored?
For the purposes of the study, we collect three kinds of information: 1) speed test results, 2) internet service provider bills, and 3) questionnaire responses.
This files are encrypted and stored in a protected environment, and are not combined with any other data.
Will anyone see my bill?
Your bill may be viewed by CR staff and human reviewers working for CR. We will attempt to automatically obfuscate your name and address before humans look at your bill.
What if I feel worried about sharing the personal information on my bill?
Consumer Reports takes privacy very seriously and actively works to secure your personal information so your data is safe. We analyze your bills in two ways: 1) We’re experimenting with a unique technology that can automatically extract the data values relevant to pricing. Where possible, we will attempt to automatically extract information from your bill; 2) If we’re unable to automatically extract the values, human reviewers working for CR will manually extract values from your bill. We will attempt to automatically obfuscate your name and address before humans look at your bill.
We are NOT looking for and will not collect: Your name, phone number, security code/PIN, account number, billing information (other than your zip code), past due amounts or other personally identifying information. Our system will not analyze or use any information that’s not specifically needed for the study.
You can also use programs like Adobe Acrobat Reader (which you might already have on your computer) or other PDF manipulation programs that allow you to open the document, black out anything you don't want us to see, and then save the pdf again with the black-out in place.
How long do you keep the data?
We delete the uploaded PDF bills after our analysis is completed and they are no longer needed, in accordance with our data retention policy. We also take steps to de-link the member from the pricing data extracted from the bills, and the data collected as part of the questionnaire.
What type of analysis will be done with the information I submitted?
Access & Choice
By comparing your bill with thousands of others, we will be able to see where prices are higher or lower for the same service. Over time, we hope to determine the factors that explain other factors that account for price differences.
For our initial study, we will only use zip code data, and NOT street addresses, to detect these geographical differences.
Internet service can be bundled with phone or cable TV service, so the cost of internet may not even be listed on the monthly bill. Other bills may not disclose the promised speed being paid for, and the price can vary significantly depending on if a promotional rate is applied or expired.
By studying the thousands of bills we aim to collect, CR will be able to identify these billing practices and determine what steps could be taken to make them less confusing.
Bills can be padded with hidden fees made up by the internet service provider that you might not have even known were there. For example, some providers impose a non-optional “network access and maintenance fee” that is not a government fee, but a fee entirely made up by the ISP.
Will you share my bill?
No. Our process has been designed to ensure that your bill won’t leave CR’s platform. Select CR staff and human reviewers working for CR will have the ability to view the bill in a controlled environment, but we will attempt to automatically obfuscate your name and address before humans look at your bill. We will delete bills when they’re no longer needed.
Will you share data with third-party researchers?
Yes. We may share aggregate data about bills and participant responses with trusted academic and research partners to further the research goals of this initiative. Speed test data will be added to mLab’s longitudinal speed test database to support the public interest research goals of the project.
How will you de-identify data before sharing with research partners?
After we extract data from a single bill, this data will be combined into a database that does not include any information that identifies you personally. We may share certain segments of this data with trusted academic and research partners to further the research goals of this initiative. Before sharing data, we will undertake further efforts to help ensure that the data cannot be de-anonymized. If we share individual level bill data, we will redact your name and contact information (excluding ZIP code).
How long will the research study be available for and how many people do we need to participate to get relevant data?
We will be collecting bills for at least ten weeks and plan to release an initial report in the fall.
Why is CR asking demographic questions? Are they important to the research findings?
Demographic information is critical to understanding the trends in the research findings and answering them will greatly impact the study. For example, information about an individual's income will help determine if there is a correlation between per-capita income and the presence of more than one internet service provider (ISP) that leads to a competitive marketplace with lower prices. Information on ethnicity will be used to see if there is a correlation between internet prices and race and ethnicity. Similarly, political identity will be used to determine if broadband pricing and affordability issues are a bipartisan concern, as well as provide critical input on how people feel about the issue across the political spectrum to use in our advocacy for better broadband service and infrastructure with lawmakers.
Why do you need to sign up for a CR member account?
The CR Membership platform has been built to ensure the highest degree of safety for an individual’s data and allows us to enable communication and feedback with participants. We’re using it for this study because those features are vital to making sure your bill is secure, and for communicating the results of all this hard work back to you!
I completed the study. How do I access my CR member benefits?
As a part of creating the most secure process possible for collecting your bills, you’ve been signed up for a “Basic” membership of CR. This is a free membership, and makes you eligible for CR tools and services like: My Products, which allows you to save your car and CR-tested product info to receive recall and maintenance alerts, Car Recall Tracker, which allows you to find out if your car has a recall and what to do next, TV Screen Optimizer, which allows you to get the perfect picture on your TV, and the You Test and Share your story tools.
You can review and access your CR member benefits here: https://www.consumerreports.org/membership
Will I receive emails?
When you sign up to participate in Fight for Fair Internet, you will receive welcome email communications with instructions on how to set an account password. You will also receive periodic emails about the Fight for Fair Internet coalition and opportunities to contribute to broadband research and advocacy.
After the study ends, you may receive information, offers, and other periodic email communications for Consumer Reports members. If you do not wish to receive emails for members, you can manage your email communications preferences here. If you do not wish to receive emails about consumer advocacy, you can opt-out here.
Can I submit a bill and not sign up for a free membership account?
In order to submit your bill digitally, participants must create a free member account. If you prefer not to create a free member account, and would still like to submit your bill for this participatory research study, we invite you to mail us a hard copy of your bill to:
c/o Cody Feng,
101 Truman Ave,
Yonkers NY 10703
We may use these bills at a different stage of the project than those submitted digitally. If you choose to mail us a physical copy of your bill, please use a permanent marker to black out phone number, security code/PIN, account number, billing information (other than your zip code), past due amounts or other personally identifying information.
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