Individuals and businesses looking to boost their internet speeds can start by participating in a new online survey about broadband access.
The Northwestern Colorado Council of Governments is asking community members to complete a short survey and speed test, which will provide data for a regional strategic broadband plan. The goal is to ensure residents and businesses have sufficient broadband access.
The strategic plan centers on this survey in order to evaluate speed and cost. The first step of the plan calls for “an assessment of needs, both infrastructure and services, through surveys, public meetings, and asset mapping.”
The end goal is to develop a blueprint for action steps local governments can take to improve access to broadband.
Paul Recanzone, president and founder of OHIvey, the company conducting the survey, said he has received 1,130 responses to date. He said they are still working on data compilation to break out businesses and duplicate responses.
The Department of Local Affairs awarded a $65,000 grant through the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund to NWCCOG for the strategic plan to improve broadband capacity development in eight counties — Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit, and the city of Glenwood Springs and town of Carbondale.
Bernie Zurbriggen of High Country Real Estate emailed his fellow Summit County Realtors the survey after completing it himself.
“We have pretty good service here in Summit County,” he said. “But faster speeds are important for business and economic growth.”
NWCCOG and Summit County government said in a statement accompanying the survey, “access to broadband services to connect to the Internet and other online services is important to economic development and quality of life in the region.”
“Almost anything we do today, we use the Internet,” Zurbriggen said. “Nobody does dial up anymore. You have to be able to communicate via email, and you need a web presence.”
Recanzone said while national mapping is available, it typically provides data on maximum download speeds and might not reflect the service people are actually experiencing. He said even though Steamboat Springs, for example, is reported to have download speeds of 120 to 130 megabits from Comcast, their survey data might show most people only have 10 megabits. If those differences exist, he wants to address the root cause.
“We have to look into the question of why that could be,” he said. “Is the higher speed too expensive, or are there services people aren’t aware of?”
Communities will work with current and future Internet providers to help support the advancements. Economic development is a key factor for evaluating and increasing broadband speeds.
Recanzone said having those higher speeds could attract new businesses with high data usage, such as data or call centers.
“If we did not have pretty good service, people who are coming here might not come anymore,” Zurbriggen said.
The survey will remain open after Recanzone analyzes the first group of data Sept. 20.
“We don’t want to compete with the Internet corporations, we want to cooperate,” he said. “They know about weaknesses in their networks, but we want to figure out what we can do to help advance the broadband experience in smaller towns.”
The survey is available at www.ohivey.com/test/introduction.php.