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Maine Broadband Coalition rolls out speed test and map to get a clearer picture of digital divide

When it comes to boosting broadband in the Pine Tree State everyone can play a role with just a few clicks.

MAINE, USA — "To make good plans for the state for the community we need much more granular data we need it at the street level," Peggy Schaffer, the executive director of Connect Maine Authority, said.

Schaffer says the coronavirus pandemic really highlighted the need for faster internet in Maine with families learning and working from home. And she says one of the problems with broadband in Maine is we don't have good data.

"Most of the data that we have on where coverage is and where coverage isn't is based on what the companies, the internet service providers, give to the FCC," Schaffer explained.

To fix that, there's a new statewide speed test.

"You can begin to see as we're filling in dots around the map, where coverage is and where coverage isn't," she said.

Speed testing is nothing new.

Geo Partners, a company out of Minnesota, developed a platform that provides a way for communities and people to test their speeds, and then it makes the information public with a map.

ConnectME Authority, the Maine Broadband Coalition, and others used the platform first in western Maine. It rolled out statewide the week of Thanksgiving. So far, nearly 6,000 tests have been run.

"It's one of the data points, it's not the data point but it's one of the data points that communities need that policymakers need that we need to figure out how we can improve service in this area," Schaffer said.

Meanwhile, help is on the way.

The FCC announced this week a major boost to help companies provide broadband in rural areas. Maine will see more than $71 million from that.

And this month, Charter Communications announced it will extend its network in Etna, Newburgh in Swanville, using more than $3 million.

"Do a speed test, get all your neighbors to do a speed test," Schaffer said. 

And right now everyone can do their part.

Schaffer said, "We don't care if you have good service or bad service we would like everyone to do because then that gives us a much better picture of what's going on in Maine."

To take the speed test visit mainebroadbandcoalition.org.

One week from today anyone interested in learning more about efforts to boost broadband in Maine can register for a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

It's happening Tuesday, December 15 from 1 to 2 p.m.

To register visit MaineChamber.org/events.  

RELATED: Mills announces nearly $6M to build internet infrastructure in rural Maine communities

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