The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vitally important role that quality broadband connections play in the lives of every resident and business in the state of Wisconsin. Those who lack a high-speed connection face challenges in running businesses, participating in online learning, and accessing health care.
To help create an accurate assessment of broadband access statewide, a coalition of regional economic development organizations and regional planning commissions covering the entire state selected a GIS mapping tool that allows individual residents and businesses to upload speed test data. In a nutshell, this mapping tool paved the way for crowdsourced speed testing in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
To ensure they were adopting an effective, user-friendly tool, the coalition selected a system that was first piloted in Brown County and, following its success there, in the 18 counties covered by the New North regional economic development organization’s Regional Broadband Access Study and Expansion Plan, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
To provide financial support for the effort, WEDC supplied a Capacity Building Grant of more than $56,000. WEDC’s grant was further matched with an investment from New North, bringing the total funding up to nearly $74,000.
According to Brittany Beyer, executive director of the Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation, the speed test tool has generated more than 55,000 responses so far this year, from geographies that span the entire state (see a map visualizing the data).
“We will make the data available to communities to help guide their broadband investment,” Beyer explains. “We’re also providing training for communities as they plan for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and funds available through the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program.”
It’s not too late to take the test! To add your speed test to the map, take your test here.