REGION — Do you ever wonder just how fast your internet connection is? Whether you’re really getting what you pay for?

To help answer these questions, the Maine West initiative is partnering with the Maine Broadband Coalition to pilot a first-ever crowdsourcing effort to map actual internet speeds in western Maine and across the state.

Following the recent passage of a $15 million bond issue to support statewide expansion of high speed internet connectivity, the new Speed Testing initiative will help local, regional, and state leaders develop projects and steer investments to the places that need it most.

“The new Speed Testing program will let people know just how fast, or slow, their internet connection really is,” says Mia Purcell of Community Concepts Finance Corporation who coordinates the Maine West broadband access and adoption effort. “By mapping the results, it will also provide local leaders with a powerful new tool for identifying areas that lack service and for working with internet service providers and the ConnectMaine Authority to fill those gaps.”

To test your internet speed, and contribute to this statewide effort, just visit: www.mainebroadbandcoalition.org/speedtesting-link.

You can then compare their results with state and federal definitions of “broadband” connectivity as speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.

Additional support for the new Speed Testing program is being provided by the ConnectMaine Authority, Maine Community Foundation, and the Island Institute.

The Maine West area was selected to pilot this effort because of ongoing work to support local broadband committees through the Maine West Broadband Boot Camp – a seven-part training and technical assistance program to provide local broadband committees with the knowledge, tools and support needed to take action on this increasingly important issue.

“The Maine West Broadband Boot Camp is a model for the kind of local community engagement we’d like to see happening across the state,” said Andrew Butcher, coordinator of the Maine Broadband Coalition. “Rolling out this new speed testing program in the Maine West area allows us to give participating communities early access to information about the actual internet speeds they’re receiving while also testing the program before we go statewide.”

The Boot Camp program is currently supporting broadband committees serving the towns of Bethel, Newry, Woodstock, Greenwood, Gilead, Albany, Buckfield, Sumner, Hebron, Hartford, Harrison, Naples, Denmark, Bridgton and Fryeburg.

In addition to the speed testing effort, participating broadband committees are also circulating community surveys to better understand local broadband needs and priorities. Surveys will be distributed electronically and by mail in the coming weeks. If you live in one of the participating communities, you can also access the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N7HG2DM. (Note: residents of Denmark and Harrison should watch for a different survey being developed by their local broadband committees.)

Maine West is a partnership of local and regional organizations working to position rural communities in northern Oxford County as viable and attractive places to live, work, do business, and raise families.

Maine West works across the Oxford Hills, River Valley and Bethel-Mahoosuc areas to provide network-based, collaborative programming in three focal areas: Active Communities, Broadband Access and Adoption, and Educational Attainment and Aspirations.

With leadership from the Northern Forest Center and Community Concepts Finance Corporation, over the past two years, the Maine West Broadband Initiative has completed a regional broadband planning process and installed new computers and broadband connections in 11 public libraries. When the coronavirus forced schools to close this past spring, the Maine West team provided 200 mobile hotspots to allow students with no home internet access to connect to online learning.


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