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SMIF seeks input on broadband accessibility

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is seeking input from community members in southern Minnesota to help define where broadband service is available and what speeds people are receiving, according to a press release. SMIF is partnering with the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, among other partners, on the Minnesota speed test initiative by asking people in its 20-county region to take a one-minute test.

The pandemic has highlighted how important access to broadband is for every Minnesotan now that more people are working, learning and receiving care from home, the release stated.

“There is no doubt that the lack of broadband in rural Minnesota hampers telework, distance learning and telehealth,” said Vince Robinson, chairman of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition.

The speed 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. For people who are unable to access the internet at all, call 715-222-2824 to take the test. The test can be found at mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest.

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 Federal Communications Commission, United States Department of Agriculture or Minnesota border-to-border broadband grant program.

“For years we’ve been relying on incomplete data to make big decisions on broadband infrastructure in Minnesota,” said Nathan Zacharias, 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.”

“We have partnered with the other rural Minnesota Initiative Foundations in this effort to identify gaps in broadband access and speed,” said Tim Penny, president and CEO of SMIF. “We hope the results of this test will provide critical data that will help the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition advocate for rural Minnesota.”

The Minnesota speed test initiative was launched by the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition in partnership with Best Buy, Blandin Foundation, ICS, Mardag Foundation, Mining Minnesota, Minnesota Initiative Foundations (including SMIF), Minnesota Power and Range Association of Municipalities and Schools.