New tool available to map broadband access in WNC

Residents of Western North Carolina hindered by sub-par broadband Internet access – or no access at all – can document their experience to share with policymakers thanks to a new website from the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN).

“Mapping Broadband in Western North Carolina” enables local residents to run a broadband speed test and submit the results to be mapped and measured against the official Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband availability map. The free website also allows residents to map locations where broadband is not available.

The FCC estimates that 19 million Americans, mostly in rural areas, cannot get wired broadband service from a cable or telephone company. That estimate includes more than 48,000 residents in 16 counties in Western North Carolina.

MAIN will issue periodic reports as it collects and analyzes the speed test data.

“Based on our experience, we believe the FCC is underestimating the scope of this problem,” said Wally Bowen, executive director of MAIN, which has advocated for Internet access in rural areas since 1995. The FCC’s estimate is based primarily on data provided by the cable and telephone companies