“The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is pleased to announce the launch of the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative,” said Vince Robinson, chair of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. “There is no doubt that the lack of broadband in rural Minnesota hampers telework, distance learning and telehealth. Our goal is to find out exactly where broadband service is available in rural Minnesota and what speeds people are receiving.”

A pilot program for speed testing is ongoing in St. Louis, Koochiching and Itasca counties. The Range Association of Municipalities and Schools has been leading the way to create a different set of broadband maps based on approximately 7,000 broadband speed tests submitted by area residents and businesses.

These speed tests, mapped by GEO Partners, clearly show the speeds available in cities and townships across the three northern Minnesota counties.

“For years we’ve been relying on incomplete data to make big decisions on broadband infrastructure in Minnesota,” said Nathan Zacharias, who is serving as the project manager for the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative. “Most broadband maps stop at the census block, township or county level. The Minnesota Speed Test Initiative will give us house-by-house data that just isn’t available anywhere else. We’re very excited to get this project in the field.” 

According to Briana Mumme, Redwood County economic development coordinator, Redwood County is not poised to meet the state broadband goals for 2022 or 2026, as outlined in the Blandin Broadband Redwood County profile report published in 2019.

Now, more than ever, it is important to have county residents complete the test; allowing not only the coalition to collect real-time speed data, but for Redwood County, Mumme added.

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

This information will be an important tool for communities that are planning a broadband expansion project through the FCC, USDA or Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Pro-gram. Take the test at mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest.

COVID-19 has shown us how important access to broadband is for every Minnesotan now that people being asked to work, learn or receive care from home. Broadband is no different than any other basic utility people need. It is considered an essential part of daily life. For more information visit www.mnbroadbandcoalition.com.

- Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain