The National Association of Counties (NACo), the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) have partnered to launch an app that asks citizens to help fill in broadband coverage gaps. Armed with that data, the organizations will advocate for adequate funding for broadband infrastructure across the country.
“TestIT” (available for iOS and Android) uses an open-source sampling tool developed by Measurement Lab (MLab) to aggregate broadband speeds from mobile device users across the country. Within the app, users can test their broadband speed from anywhere. Snapshots of individual tests will be collected within a database, allowing partners to analyze connectivity data across the country. The idea of having users test and report their own broadband speed gets around some of the problems with national coverage maps which are based on the reporting of private companies and aren’t always accurate.
A 2018 study conducted by Microsoft concluded that 19 million rural Americans do not use broadband, largely due to a lack of access. As CivSource recently reported, the national broadband map is slated for an update with data gatherers pulling information from a group of major cities that are meant to be a representative sample of coverage in the US. NTIA which is leading the project has said that additional cities will be incorporated over time. It’s unclear if data from TestIT will eventually be part of that effort, but users that self-report through the app will be building a valuable dataset.
“Access to affordable, high-speed internet is essential to connect people and places and compete in today’s economy,” said NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Outdated broadband mapping techniques limit Congress’ ability to accurately identify and allocate broadband resources across much of America.”