App Helps Communities Address Rural Broadband

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(image courtesy of the National Association of Counties) (image courtesy of the National Association of Counties)

Officials in Hamilton County are using a new mobile app to help identify areas in need of rural broadband coverage. The app, known as TestIT, was created by the National Association of Counties and allows users to test their broadband speeds to accurately identify areas with low or no Internet connectivity. Hamilton County Surveyor Kenton Ward, who also serves on the NACo Board of Directors, says the app can help communities when it comes to getting funding to address the rural broadband gap.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ward said the app helps meet a specific need when it comes to gathering broadband speed data.

"The FCC gathers its data from the suppliers, of course, and sometimes that's not quite correct information, so we feel that there's areas that are underserved or unserved that are not being quantified in that information," said Ward. "This is a way that we can reach out to those areas and get our own data so that when we go to the FCC to get funding for those ares that are underserved or unserved, we have actual data that we can provide to them."

The app allows users to test the broadband speeds in any given area and then sends the location and speed data to a research center, which gathers all of the information. Ward says, just in the last few months, he has found several areas throughout Hamilton County that are below the national average for broadband speed and some that are below the federal minimum standard.

Ward says the app can be used for more than just Hamilton County. "What I'm hoping for is that, especially for the farm areas who need that broadband for agribusiness now, they can go to their senators and representatives and push for some of the funding that's available."

NACo partnered with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corp. to fund the app. 

In March, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released the results of a study which showed Indiana could add more than $2 billion to its GDP each year if the entire rural community had broadband services. Indiana Director of Broadband Opportunities Scott Rudd appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick and said the state is looking to boost its focus on rural broadband access. 

Ward says the app helps meet a specific need when it comes to gathering broadband speed data.
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