Testing Your Internet Speeds While Living Rural Might Help You Get Improved Internet
The accessibility gap is a core component of the digital divide and a situation that affects millions of rural Americans. What can be perhaps most frustrating about this rural divide is the sheer inconsistency of it. One neighbor can enjoy high-speed internet while another struggles to even reach broadband.
Broadband Availability in Rural America
According to current estimates, around 30 percent of rural Americans do not have a broadband internet connection in their homes. While there are multiple reasons for this situation—including the affordability gap—availability is by far the most prevalent one. As mentioned in the introduction, the sheer inconsistency at which the problem does and does not exist seems odd and is certainly frustrating for those residents who lack access knowing that their neighbor down the street does not.
An excellent example of where the availability gap both exists and does not is Warren County, which is located in eastern Missouri. Within the county are towns like Warrenton and Wright City where the usual download speed is 25 Mbps—the bare minimum to be considered broadband by the FCC—but where some homes are well below that mark and others are well above 300 Mbps. This kind of disparity is frustrating and unfair, and it has motivated the local governments to try and do something about it.
Data Collection Project
Various local government agencies in and serving Warren County are coming together in order to help the region overcome its availability gap. Helping these public agencies is the Boonslick Regional Planning Commission, which is a not-for-profit organization that since 1968 has provided professional planning services and technical assistance to local government and communities throughout the state.
These groups are also partnering with Gateway Fiber, a Missouri-based fiber-optic internet service provider that offers speeds up to 1 Gbps. Together, these groups have a plan to visualize their availability problem through a digital map. But to build this map, they need data collected from individual homes. These groups have formed a foundation, and through that foundation, they have requested that all households in the county use a site that has been set up for them. Speedtest.net will be used to test the connection, and that data will then be linked to a name and location.
The digital map may do much more than letting them visualize the problem. There is a great deal of federal funding available to help local communities close the availability gap. The hope is that the data collected will demonstrate that Warren County is a viable recipient of the funds needed to broaden access.
In the Meantime
That there is so much funding available is exciting, and the infrastructure bill should provide even more. But getting these funds to the communities that need them takes time. Even in rural communities that have received a CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant, residents may have to wait as long as 24 months before benefiting from the funding.
Test Your Internet Speed
You can test your internet speed too, and doing is so is simple through a free service like Speedtest by Ookla. Everyone who adds their data to the mix does their small part to build a digital map of Internet access around the country. It is also recommended that you speed test for your personal purposes. It can help to test at various times of the day and night and even create a log for future reference.