As US broadband providers move towards usage-based pricing plans, Georgia Tech researchers are launching a tool allowing users to make sure they're getting the service they're paying for.
Kermit lets users monitor and control network usage by measuring the actual network speed available and tracking bandwidth usage over time.
"I think it’s widely recognized now, and the FCC is [aware], that people are not getting the speeds that are sometimes advertised," says Beki Grinter, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing. "What Kermit does is it makes that very visible to people in their homes."
Kermit gives a simple view of all the home’s internet-connected devices - computers, mobile devices, digital video recorders, game systems or anything else. It can not only show who’s using the internet, but can also limit a device’s speed. The user can even limit or prioritize a specific machine’s traffic.
"With one husband-and-wife couple, the wife actually limited her husband’s machine because she worked from home," says Kermit developer Marshini Chetty. "Before, she wouldn’t have gone to the router web interface to do that, but because Kermit made it easier for her, she was feeling more comfortable to do it. Of course, her husband didn’t really like that."
Kermit also allows users to view historical data, such as how much bandwidth different machines use over time. And they can schedule access for their children: "In one household, for example, a mom and dad talked about how their son always used the Xbox past midnight, and they didn’t want to stay up to make sure he stopped because they had to get up for work the next day," says Chetty.
"So they saw a use for Kermit to basically set up a time restriction so that their son would automatically be cut off at midnight."