Many, if not all, of the counties in Idaho are looking for ways to enhance broadband coverage. There are some great opportunities available right now through the use of ARPA dollars, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIL), as well as state funding that has been set aside (both ARPA funds and state funds without federal strings attached) which will be distributed by the Idaho Broadband Advisory Board (IBAB).
The best way to access these funds is having a strong broadband plan in place that provides a thorough understanding of what needs exist. Imagine Idaho, (a non-profit founded by rural Idahoans in search of broadband, and funded through donations from Idaho businesses and other philanthropic organizations in the state) has teamed up to help counties game plan through a speed-testing program. Learn more about how your county can utilize this free speed-testing program to access broadband funding and use that funding wisely below.
Millions of dollars in state and federal funding for broadband infrastructure will soon be available to connect rural Idaho. Idaho communities must develop strong broadband project plans once it is time to apply for grant funds. Imagine Idaho Foundation was created to help rural Idaho with this process. We focus on communities with large numbers of underserved and unserved residents to help improve access to telehealth, education, business opportunities, and more. We are working with eager counties, cities, economic development associations, non-profits and businesses, ready to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Every community with local authorities that want to qualify and apply for federal broadband infrastructure funding should conduct a speed-testing campaign. Speed-testing allows local broadband planning teams to diagnose the number of unserved and underserved residents in their community who will be prioritized for infrastructure funding. Underserved means a resident’s internet speed is 25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload. Unserved is 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps for upload or less. Unless other data surveys can prove otherwise, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will award grants to Idaho based on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 477 connectivity reporting. Discrepancies can happen with FCC reporting because it utilizes census block information showing an area has connectivity even though there may only be one resident with internet access in that census block. Having data that can challenge the FCC’s report by showing more actual underserved or unserved residents than reported by the FCC is critical for Idaho.
Everything stays local. Imagine Idaho will provide help with a game plan and services in the range of identifying local stakeholders, provide access to our grant-funded speed-testing program and training to create a speed-testing webpage, marketing materials, social media, mailing letters, and whatever else you may need. Regular check-in meetings to discuss progress are a part of this service too. Making your residents aware of the campaign will ensure it is successful and allow you to gather the data you will need to submit to the NTIA. As the expert in your community, you will know how to best connect with residents. Our Camas, Benewah, and Valley County projects recently started this phase are already seeing results.
Imagine Idaho’s goal is to connect the whole state of Idaho, and by working together we can bring affordable and reliable broadband to your community. Please contact Christina Culver at 208-470-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.