High-speed internet for rural communities?

Linn County residents – especially those in rural communities – could get highspeed Internet connections if enough Oregonians answer an online survey about their current Internet service, according to Steve Braaten, IT director for Linn County and a member of a regional compact studying the issue.

Braaten said Oregon’s portion of federal Build Back Better funds will be used to bring high-speed fiber optics to rural residents.

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic that saw adults working from home and students attending classes online, pinpointed the disparity between Internet services available in cities compared to rural communities.

“We have the potential to be able to improve the Internet backbone, the infrastructure that will greatly speed up data transmission from town-to-town,” he said.

The local regional team included representatives from Linn, Lane, Benton and Lincoln counties.

Participants who take FasterInternetOregon.org’s online survey will be asked to perform a test of their current Internet speeds.

Data collected from this project will be used by decision makers to identify Oregon homes that lack high-speed Internet, clarify which households do not have an Internet connection and why, and provide cost estimates and assess competitive viability of a variety of solutions for areas with identified gaps.

Survey participants will not be asked to provide names or contact information.

Information will not be used for commercial or marketing purposes. Only campaign partners and decision-makers who sign a data-use agreement will have access to the household-level data.

The manner in which Internet service is received – mobile hotspot, in-home cable or satellite link-up – does not matter. Also, information gleaned from those without Internet service is valuable since one of the project’s goals is learning how many communities do not have adequate Internet services.

The project is a partnership of the Oregon Economic Development Districts, Onward Eugene, SpeedUpAmerica and Link Oregon.

“Oregon’s Economic Development Districts are excited to support this effort so that we have the data we need to bring federal and state funding to our regions that can fill those gaps in broadband availability,” Oregon Economic Development District president Jessica Metta said.

This data will be aggregated and added to a dynamic map that key community decision-makers can use to identify projects and apply for funding.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer