An invitation from the Blandin Foundation…
There is no doubt that the lack of broadband is severely hampering working from home, distance learning and tele-health. There is also ongoing discussion over how well the FCC and state broadband maps document actual broadband coverage across Minnesota. These maps are used by funders to determine grant program eligibility so that overstatement of available services is highly consequential and negatively impacts rural places.
St. Louis County has been leading the way to create a different set of broadband maps based to date 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 county. Koochiching and Itasca Counties are preparing to launch their own initiative and other counties are considering their participation.
There would be significant economies of scale to do this project across larger geographies – statewide, statewide rural, development regions, etc.
There are two key components to successfully implement this project. First is the technology. GEO Partners has a proven process for that task. The more difficult task must be borne by local entities – local units of government, school districts and community organizations – to spread the word to local residents so that they understand the importance of this initiative. The validity of the results increases with the number of people taking the speed test. This is critical for those communities working to qualify for state and federal broadband. For those places with great broadband, this is a way to showcase the speeds available in your area and can be used for community economic development marketing.
Blandin Foundation sees the benefits of this prospective initiative. We are seeking a proposal from GEO Partners so that we can discuss the opportunity with prospective partners across the state. We will be holding an information discussion via Zoom on Monday, June 15 from 1-2pm. Click here to register for the meeting.