New app could help expand broadband access

Posted at 3:34 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 18:24:32-04

GREAT FALLS– Across much of rural America, the build out of broadband infrastructure depends on funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

When the FCC looks at funding priorities, they partially rely on maps showing broadband connectivity, but there’s a problem with that.

“When you look at those maps you’ll find a lot of places where it says we have high-speed broadband where there is no such coverage,” Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs told MTN.

Now the FCC has agreed to reconsider the data they are using.

That’s why the National Association of Counties (NACo) has created an app called TestIT to build a better map of broadband access.

The FCC minimum standard for broadband is 25 MBPS download speed and three MBPS upload speed.

“Basically what it’s doing is it’s recording what your speed of upload and download is and your GPS location,” Briggs said.

No matter where you are, a tap of the app tells where you do and don’t meet minimum service standards. That information will be used to generate new coverage maps for broadband access. If you are using the app in an area that has no service at all, the data can be sent when you do have service again.

The app can also check and record the speed of your hardline internet if you have the Wi-Fi turned on. Briggs said it is important to test with your Wi-Fi on, then test again with your Wi-Fi off. “Use it routinely and not just at your house, not just at your office, out at your favorite fishing hole, picnic spots, wherever you happen to be,” said Briggs.

It doesn’t take any personal information but it could help you help yourself. “If you don’t have good wireless broadband where you need it, this is your way to anonymously let the FCC know you don’t have it,” Briggs explained. “The more people we have gathering the data, the faster we will accumulate a good enough map that we can go back to the FCC and plead our case.”

The app is free in the App Store and on Google Play— just search TestIT or TestIT NACo.

-Reported by Joe Huisinga/MTN News