Over the course of the last 18 months, it has become increasingly obvious that high-speed internet access is vital to keeping our society functioning.
Federal, state and local leaders have addressed the issue, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, by allocating millions of dollars towards expanding access in underserved areas.
In Bartholomew County, the latest news is that officials plan to set aside around $4 million towards laying broadband from the $16.25 million earmarked for the county in the American Rescue Plan. This money is in addition to the near half-million already set aside for broadband from the 2020 CARES Act, among other funds.
What can’t be lost in expansion efforts is that it isn’t just about getting more internet to homes, it’s about making sure that the speeds are up to snuff.
In a survey completed by the Bartholomew County Broadband Initiative Committee this past winter, speed tests showed 61.2% of respondents had internet service that does not meet the federal definition of broadband, which is 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload.
While Bartholomew County has put time, effort and money into studying its broadband status, and been able to isolate and identify areas of the county that need help, some communities have not been as fortunate.
Many counties rely on telecommunications providers to share such information, but evidence suggests that the advertised speeds don’t always meet actual service speeds.
Thankfully, a just-launched initiative aims to create greater clarity.
Indiana Farm Bureau recently announced the formation of the Indiana Broadband Strategic Partnership, which has created the Indiana Speed Test, a crowd-sourced internet speed test created by GEO Partners, LLC. The IBSP also includes Cook Medical Group, Duke Energy Foundation, Indiana Association of Realtors, Radius Indiana and the Regional Opportunity Initiative.
The goal for the Indiana Speed Test is to gather data from all areas of Indiana. According to Farm Bureau, "the GEO Partners software platform and the data will be available to local governments and organized broadband groups to analyze potential solutions and aid their applications for Indiana’s Next Level Connections Grants and a variety of federal grants."
A growing number of organizations, including the Purdue Center for Regional Development, Association of Indiana Counties, Indiana Association of Regional Councils, Indiana Hospital Association and Indiana Broadband housed within the Office of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, have since joined the effort.
The speed test, which can be found at infb.org/speedtest, can be done multiple times on any device that has an internet or cellular connection. The test takes less than one minute to complete, and no personal information is collected.
This is an excellent idea, and all Hoosier should consider participating.
Efficient, reliable, and easily-accessible broadband services are essential to all Hoosiers. This speed test can help us move closer to that reality.