Pandemic Heightens Awareness for Lack of Rural Broadband Internet Access

Pandemic Heightens Awareness for Lack of Rural Broadband Internet Access Click to Enlarge Photo: Unsplash

(KNSI) - Reliance on the internet has only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and groups like the AARP of Minnesota and the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition are hoping a new download speed test will help policymakers be more aware of gaps in access to broadband internet.

Nathan Zacharias with the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, says the pandemic has only brought to light gaps and access issues for some users.

"We knew before the pandemic that everybody needed broadband, and I think everybody knows just a little bit more how much need it."

The AARP's Jay Haapala says the internet has become crucial for seniors to combat social isolation.

"Whether it's through video-conferencing, or to connect with people online - is not just a nice thing to have, that social connection is something that's critical to people's lives and their health."

On its website, the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition offers a free test, which determines the internet speed flowing through a person's home.

Zacharias says he hopes policymakers will look at all of the places around the state without broadband access and use that to fund internet infrastructure.

"You're gonna see a lot of dots on our map that indicate there's low levels of service, or no service at all."

The test was first launched in early August and will be available for a year. Before that wraps up, Zacharias says they will compile comprehensive data and present it to lawmakers during the next budget cycle.

Do the test for yourself by clicking here.