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Rural broadband group wants state residents to help find gaps in high-speed internet access.

Paula Mohr, Editor, The Farmer

October 6, 2020

2 Min Read
fiber cable installation under construction
CHECK YOUR SPEED: The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is offering the first-ever statewide speed testing program for broadband. Data will be shared to encourage affordable high-speed service across the state.deepblue4you/Getty Images

If you have a broadband internet connection, the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition wants you to take its online speed test. Now.

Reason? The coalition is building a statewide map to show where and how fast broadband connections are in the state. Test data gathered will be shared with state lawmakers in early 2021.

“A survey like this has never been done before,” says Nathan Zacharias, a consultant hired to serve as project manager for the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative. “We want to gather data on service speed and service patterns, and share that information with the state Legislature.”

COVID has only enhanced the need for affordable high-speed internet access in rural areas. Zacharias notes, too, that the state has not provided consistent funding for broadband.

As of late September, about 21,000 speed tests had been recorded on the coalition’s speed test map. Zacharias says the goal is at least 100,000 tests, as that will provide a state benchmark.

The coalition offered a pilot program earlier this year for speed testing in St Louis, Koochiching and Itasca counties, which Zacharias deemed successful. The pilot garnered 7,000 broadband speed tests taken by area residents and businesses.

“For years, we have relied on incomplete data to make big decisions on broadband infrastructure in Minnesota,” Zacharias says. “Most broadband maps stop at the census block, township or county level. The speed test initiative gives us house-by-house data that just isn’t available anywhere else.”

The speed test can be taken with any device that has an internet or cellular connection, and takes less than a minute to complete. No personal information is collected. Testing data will be statistically valid and provide a map of what service levels are for any given area in the state.

Zacharias says the test data could serve as an important tool for communities that are planning a broadband expansion project through the Federal Communications Commission, USDA or the MN Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. The coalition has worked with Le Sueur and Scott counties and in Redwood Falls on speed test projects.

“We need community engagement to be successful,” he adds. “Please share this link with your friends.”

To take the speed test, go to mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest. To learn more about the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, visit mnbroadbandcoalition.com.

About the Author(s)

Paula Mohr

Editor, The Farmer

Mohr is former editor of The Farmer.

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