The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition (MRBC) is looking for participation from residents in rural areas of Minnesota to help identify issues they face with slow internet speeds by launching the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative.
This issue of the lack of broadband in rural Minnesota has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. With distance learning at schools, many workers forced to work remotely from home and groups ranging from the courts system to healthcare conducting hearings and meetings virtually, the disparity in the ability to have needed broadband access has become even more pronounced.
The Minnesota Speed Test Initiative began as a pilot project in St. Louis, Itasca and Koochiching counties to compile test results of internet speed tests to create quantifiable data that can been used to create more accurate broadband maps. More than 7,000 broadband speed tests were completed by residents and businesses in those counties. Now the MRBC is looking to expand the project statewide to get a more comprehensive data set.
The speed test takes between 30 seconds and one minute and adds an individual’s results to that of the existing group. The test can be taken here: http://mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest. Participants are asked to enter their address and then take the test. Out of respect for privacy, a complete address isn’t required, but it helps closer identify where the areas of highest need are in the cities and townships of Minnesota.
The speed test can be taken on any device that has an internet or cellular connection. No personal information will be collected as part of this process. Testing data will be statistically valid and provide a map of what service levels are in any given area of the state. The data collected will be an important tool for communities that are planning a broadband expansion through the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.
Advocates of the program point out that the disparity in access to broadband threatens the long-term viability of the rural economy and should be viewed like any other basic utility that people need. Internet and cellular access have become an essential part of our daily lives, which is why as much statistical data as possible is needed to let the decision makers aware of what areas of the state are being underserved.
The MRBC is a membership group of local units of government, economic development agencies, agriculture groups, educational institutions, healthcare professionals, telecommunications organizations, non-profits and individuals who advocate for better broadband in Minnesota. The vision of MRBC is that everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, effective, affordable broadband networks.