Guest Post by: Jon Matar – CEO, SpeedUpYourCity

Next Century Cities is featuring a guest blog post as part of our commitment to elevating the voices of city leaders who are launching innovative efforts to bring fast, affordable, and reliable internet to all citizens. We hope that our member cities can learn from these efforts, and be inspired to engage in similar work. If you would like to submit a guest blog post, please contact Executive Director Deb Socia.

In the 21st-Century, education and careers increasingly depend on ubiquitous access to affordable high-speed internet access. Unfortunately, not all citizens have access to the digital tools they need to succeed.

In Louisville, we have a simple connectivity goal: to provide fair and equal access to high-speed internet service so no resident aspiration is hindered by a lack of connectivity options.

The first step to reach this goal is to understand the current connectivity environment. Internet connectivity data lags far behind other industries when viewed through the lens of a consumer trying to benchmark internet access prices and quality of service. Citizens in our community are concerned about insufficient connectivity, but without hard data, identifying the scope of the problem is difficult.

As Chief Innovation Officer of Louisville Ted Smith said, “It’s easy to speculate about where connection speeds may struggle, but without the data, it’s nearly impossible to know who is getting good, reliable service and where opportunities exist for improvement.”

During a civic hack-a-thon, this need for a way to allow citizens to test their Internet speed was identified, which led to the later development of www.SpeedUpLouisville.com. The application makes the data publicly available to establish a set of benchmarks, which help city officials develop data-driven strategies to increase digital equity to their citizens.  “It makes for a great citizen science project where we can all donate some data about our experiences and, collectively, we can all benefit,” Ted said.

Citizens are able to use the application to evaluate the cost and quality of their internet service by viewing whether or not they are receiving the speeds they should be getting per their ISP contract, and comparing their level of service with those around them.

The application also reflects the city’s commitment to citizen participation. By crowd-sourcing citizen speed tests, SpeedUpLouisville maps the data to help city officials understand the current state of connectivity in their community.

 

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To learn more about this tool, please visit: www.SpeedUpYourCity.comWe hope that other cities can learn from this effort, as we work to use increased transparency to put pressure on ISPs to provide greater levels of service in the areas they serve. “We win when ISPs compete to provide service,” Ted said. “We’re losing when no one is trying to close gaps in the market.”