Community broadband planning often starts with two seemingly simple questions: Where do we have service, and how fast is it?
To help answer these questions, the Center and the Maine West initiative are partnering with the Maine Broadband Coalition to implement a new crowdsourcing effort to map actual internet speeds across the state.
Launched statewide in November, following approval this summer of a $15 million bond to support statewide broadband expansion, the Getting up to Speed initiative will help local, regional, and state leaders develop projects and steer investments to the places that need it most.
Maps based on available FCC data don’t provide the detail communities need to assess and improve broadband internet service. The Getting up to Speed effort is crowdsourcing and mapping real speed test results from thousands of homes across the state to provide users, communities, and state officials with up-to-date service maps that show where there is and isn’t service, who provides service, and how fast it is.
The Center and Maine West helped fund the new speed testing effort and piloted the program as part of the Maine West Broadband Boot Camp – a seven-part training and technical assistance program that provided local broadband committees with the knowledge, tools and support to take action on this fundamental issue.
“Mapping was one of the first things our community partners asked about when we launched the Broadband Boot Camp,” said Center Senior Program Director Mike Wilson. “Helping to test and launch the Getting up to Speed project allowed us to start generating data for Maine West communities quickly while working with state partners to address a critical information gap.”
The Maine West pilot project has generated more than 900 speed tests from two dozen communities. Since its statewide launch on November 18, Getting up to Speed has collected data from nearly 10,000 speed tests.
Any Maine resident can contribute to this effort by visiting: https://www.mainebroadbandcoalition.org. Results can then be compared with state and federal definitions of “broadband” connectivity as speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.
“Understanding the scope of the connectivity problem is key solving it,” says Peggy Schaffer, executive director of the ConnectMaine Authority. “This crowd-sourcing speed test effort gives community planning groups and citizens the power to really understand the extent of the connectivity program – which is the first step to identifying possible solutions.
In addition to support from the Center and Maine West, the Maine Broadband Coalition’s speed testing program is supported by the ConnectMaine Authority, Maine Community Foundation, and the Island Institute.