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Idaho Department Of Commerce Wants You To Take An Internet Speed Test

A screenshot of an internet speed test showing a dial measuring 10.23 Mbps.
Screenshot of Ookla internet speed test.

How fast is your home internet? Idaho’s Department of Commerce wants you to find out — especially if you don’t live in a city.

The request comes as the state is trying to better understand where in Idaho internet access is too slow, unreliable or non-existent, said Commerce Director Tom Kealey.

"We scrambled to try to find maps that would be accurate and there aren’t really any."

Kealey, also chairman of Governor Brad Little’s 2019 broadband internet task force, said the work done two years ago identified five areas of concern and established a State Broadband Office within the Department of Commerce to help address issues.

That work paved the way for quick deployment of federal CARES Act funds, helping Idaho add about 250 wifi access points in underserved areas last year.

More federal money is on the way, and the state expanded its funding commitment during the last legislative session. The next step is to boost high speed internet availability in rural homes.

Kealey said maps from the Federal Communication Commission are relevant but can't paint an accurate picture everywhere.

"We subscribe to the Ookla service now," Kealey said, "to show us what the state of Idaho's level of broadband is based on speed test results."

Ookla is a Seattle-based company that analyzes internet performance. You may already have used the service at speedtest.net.

Idahoans testing their home connection in 2021 — not internet through a cell phone — will contribute to maps identifying geographic areas of need. Kealey said the data collected is anonymous.

Based on data from the first three months of 2021, Idaho ranks 46th of 51 for median download speed among the U.S. states and the District of Columbia. But those rankings can be deceiving, and Kealey doesn't put much stock in them.

"Where we are in the pack is not as important as how we make certain that there's connectivity around," he said. "It'll help rural Idaho thrive. It'll help our citizens thrive."

The state of South Carolina partnered with Ookla three years ago. That effort drove nearly $30 million to bring broadband to 12,500 new households there, according to the case study.

Kealey hopes for the same type of success in the Gem state, but needs as many households as possible to take a speed test.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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