INFB, GEO Partners form broadband strategic partnership
Indiana Farm Bureau recently announced the formation of the Indiana Broadband Strategic Partnership to help bring reliable broadband to the most unserved and underserved communities throughout the state. To help with this initiative, the IBSP also includes Cook Medical Group, Duke Energy Foundation, Indiana Association of Realtors, Radius Indiana and the Regional Opportunity Initiative.
This partnership will promote the Indiana Speed Test, a crowd-sourced internet speed test created by GEO Partners LLC, a Minnesota-based company that focuses on enabling cost-effective planning and deployment of broadband.
GEO Partners LLC is working with other states, including Minnesota, Washington, Maine, Kentucky, and Nebraska, as well as the nationally designated Delta Regional Authority that covers parts of eight states along the Mississippi River, to gather broadband data.
The Indiana Speed Test is available on the INFB website, www.infb.org/speedtest, along with the websites of the initial partners and a growing list of collaborating organizations, including the Purdue Center for Regional Development, Association of Indiana Counties, Indiana Association of Regional Councils, Indiana Hospital Association and Indiana Broadband housed within the Office of Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.
“Since access to reliable broadband is one of the most important challenges facing rural communities today, Indiana Farm Bureau sought organizations that advocate on behalf of rural Indiana to begin finding and developing solutions,” said Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau president. “Data is a critical piece to help local broadband groups and the state of Indiana invest where service is needed and to avoid overbuilding infrastructure. With their groundbreaking work in other states, GEO Partners is a perfect fit.”
GEO Partners provides real-time internet speed data by collecting speed test information from residents. Displayed on geographic information system layers, the data pinpoints areas that are most in need of reliable, affordable access to broadband service.
The goal for the Indiana Speed Test is to gather data in all areas of Indiana. The GEO Partners’ software platform and the data will be available to local governments and organized broadband groups to analyze potential solutions and aid their applications for Indiana’s Next Level Connections Grants and a variety of federal grants. It is also hoped that the Indiana Speed Test data will jumpstart efforts to plan broadband infrastructure investments from the local portions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, so that decision-makers make investments with the greatest impact.
The speed test may be performed multiple times on any device that has an internet or cellular connection. The test takes less than one minute to complete, and no personal information will be collected.
“All Hoosiers are encouraged to participate in the Indiana Speed Test; the more locations, the more data points we’ll be able to map to highlight what connections are available and speeds Hoosiers are getting at those locations,” Kron said. “We are confident that GEO Partners will help all broadband stakeholders in Indiana by mapping actual internet speeds and identifying the most efficient methods to invest in broadband infrastructure.”
The COVI-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the lack of adequate broadband in Indiana, especially in rural areas. The IBSP’s goal is to encourage data-driven investment decisions that substantially impact lives and economic opportunity.