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International internet improvers

We have thousands of volunteers collecting broadband performance data from their own homes that fuel our National Studies around the world. Our volunteers are critical contributors to what we do, but get their own perks for taking part. We've collected a few stories about how our Connected Home solution is helping volunteers better understand and improve their internet performance.

Volunteer program

When we set up a National Study of broadband performance, we recruit volunteers all across the country from major ISPs and their various broadband packages. The data these volunteers help collect is published in annual public reports that aim to drive investment, improve performance, and supply consumers with reliable unbiased information about the relative performance of ISPs, connection technologies, and online applications in their country.

The process of becoming a volunteer

In exchange for volunteering their internet performance data, they also get access to SamKnows’ Connected Home solution – which allows them to monitor their own home connection with a precision measurement kit that is not usually available to the public.

What is Connected Home?

Connected Home is a SamKnows product solution for allowing users to monitor their in-home internet performance and internet experience. Connected Home includes RealSpeed, a way to help you understand how your Wi-Fi performance varies around the home instantaneously and troubleshoot common problems without having to contact your ISP. It also includes  SingleView, a feature that allows you to look at the history of your broadband connection to a single home up until the present. These tests run automatically when the connection is idle, so it does not interfere with a user’s internet experience or impair measurement results. 

Getting feedback from our volunteers helps us improve user experience and address our product intentions. Recently, we checked in with some of our volunteers to see how their experience with SamKnows Connected Home has been, here are some of the responses: 

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Fort Wayne, USA

Volunteer from Measuring Broadband America study

The new dashboard really nails it! Thank you for adding the "disconnection" panel. While I don't often have these issues (anymore) it still provides very useful info, especially over time. I also love the very slight smoothing of the graphs in the two week and monthly displays. It helps isolate true problems from the sporadic noise.

In these "pandemic times", many of us rely on our ISP connections more than ever. In my case, my ISP also appreciates that I can provide concise, easy-to-understand "hard data", which can actually help their troubleshooting efforts.

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Paul Anderson

Whangarei, New Zealand

I signed up for Whitebox with the intention to gather internet performance data on the inadequate VDSL connection provided by my ISP in our coastal community. At the time the stability of the service was very poor with frequent outages, and the download speed of 19mbps and upload of 10mbps was very disappointing.

Shortly before installing the Whitebox we had a major VDSL outage which lasted 4 days. With no landline telephone we are dependent on the internet connection and our SureSignal device to boost our cell phone signal for all communications including the 111 service. After several months of data collection I provided my data to my ISP to demonstrate how inadequate their VDSL was. They never acknowledged receipt of the data, or that their VDSL was below acceptable standards. But within weeks, remarkably, our VDSL service improved to 55Mbps down and 20Mbps up and stable enough for Netflix streaming.

I recommend that others should participate in the Measuring Broadband New Zealand Project. The more data that can be collected and passed on to our internet providers can only help improve the service for everyone else.

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Neil Condon

Geraldton, Australia

Volunteer from Measuring Broadband Australia study

I’d previously raised issues with my ISP about internet performance based on limited info from another device monitoring on my network. Within a few months of installing my Whitebox it showed a consistent trend of much lower speeds every evening. That gave me the credible evidence I needed to go back to my ISP. Eventually my ISP agreed that there was a problem with network capacity, which they are currently supposedly working to fix. As compensation they have effectively given me one month free of charge and reduced my ongoing monthly fee by $30 until the service is fixed. I doubt I would have made any headway with my ISP without the Whitebox, the information it provides and its credibility because of its link with the Australian regulator.

After the initial setup there’s nothing that a user needs to do – and they have access to data on their service that they can review if they want to. If they are having problems with the quality of their NBN service then they will have information they can provide to their ISP to assist in getting it fixed – or if applicable, use to support them in getting a better service/deal out of their ISP.

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Cobourg, Ontario, CA

Volunteer from Measuring Broadband Canada study

I do believe your system of monitoring the broadband (expected vs received) service is the best I have seen.

Each month I would look in detail at the Samknows reports. I even used them to make my point with the Cogeco service staff – even forwarded one month to them as they just didn’t believe I could see the download and upload speed in detail. After that I do believe I received much better download speeds – consistent speed. 

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Nottinghamshire, UK

Volunteer from Measuring Broadband New Zealand study

My name is Michael. I have been a Whitebox user on and off for the past several years. When I moved house and no longer had a suitable internet connection, I offered my old Whitebox to a colleague who didn’t think his home Broadband was working correctly but was struggling to prove it. Within days of connecting the Whitebox he had more than enough evidence to prove to his ISP that there was a problem!

Funnily enough, I thought my broadband was working OK before I received my current Whitebox. However, once I’d set it up and left it running for a few hours to generate some stats, I was puzzled to see that my download speed was only around 30Mbps, as opposed to the 350Mbps I was paying for. I contacted my ISP who were very apologetic and resolved the issue quite promptly.

Thank you, SamKnows, for coming to the rescue of myself and my colleague! 👍

Become a volunteer