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Southeast Ohio Broadband working to pinpoint areas in need of service

WOODSFIELD — Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative is encouraging residents to take a speed test that can help determine which areas in Monroe County are most in need of broadband service.

The internet speed test allows the group to gather data about residents’ broadband speed and what areas are most lacking internet capabilities. The cooperative and the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District secured a $400,000 grant through the Appalachian Regional Commission to help expand broadband in the county, but first they must locate areas that are most in need.

Jesse Hedley, board member of SOBC, said from the data collected they will be able to create a map that will aid in efforts to improve broadband in the community.

“With the information, we have partnered with a company called Geo Partners who has a great software system that helps point out where we could best serve current assets, such as towers, or what type of systems would best work out between the different wireless options,” he said.

Hedley said all residents in the county, regardless of whether they have poor or excellent internet service, are encouraged to take the speed test.

“If they have the means to access it, definitely run the speed test even if you have great speeds. It gives us more information to know that their area is covered so we don’t have to worry about that particular area,” he said.

Additionally, they hope to determine what residents are paying for broadband services to ensure providers are not “price gouging,” he said.

“We want to make sure people not only have access but can afford it, too,” he added.

As of Thursday, around 240 people have completed the speed test in Monroe County. Internet access seems to be lacking throughout the county, Hedley said. Although broadband appears to be minimal in most areas, there are a few spots in Woodsfield and Lewisville that are labeled as having “acceptable speed.”

“By law, the minimum that some internet providers are supposed to be giving is 25 megabits download speed, and if you look there’s not a whole lot of those in the area,” he added.

The group also assisted Washington County in obtaining better broadband access. Hedley said the goal then was to have 2,000 people participate in the speed test.

The test can be found online by visiting seobc.us/current-speed-test.

A public meeting to discuss broadband in the county is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Monroe Central High School, located at 469 Lewisville Road, Woodsfield. The meeting is being held to gain input from the community on possible target areas while also answering residents’ questions regarding internet service.

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