Minnesotans can now, at a glance, figure out how their Internet speeds compare to neighbors and those around the state.
Last week, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development launched the website www.checkspeedminnesota.com. Once users allow the state to ping their location, their download speeds are instantly mapped down to the street and block level.
Internet connections are color coded by speed and range from a turtle-paced 0-9 Mbps, to a cheetah-like 1,000 Mbps or more.
The map also tracks whether the connection is through a workplace, residence, public Wi-Fi, mobile or business owner, as well as satisfaction level.
State officials said this tool will bring the consumer voice into the discussion about Internet speeds, and that Minnesota is the first state to map these speeds at a state level.
"It is considered a critical need for health care, education and rural development," said Danna Mackenzie, executive director of the state's Office of Broadband Development.
A quick check for the Alexandria area found speeds ranging from pretty pokey to moderately speedy. Several places (including the Echo Press) clocked in at between 50 and 100 Mbps, while one near Brandon topped 400 Mpbs. Those inside Alexandria reported feeling neutral or satisfied about their speeds, while dissatisfaction was found mostly south of I-94.
Access to broadband still lags in rural Minnesota, Mackenzie said. The state has set a goal for downloading speeds of 25 Mpbs and uploading speeds of 3 Mpbs by 2022, she said. While nearly 98 percent of Minnesotans overall achieve that level, only 79 percent of those outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area have access at that level.
The state has allocated $87.6 million to speed up Internet in underserved areas, she said, and universal access is a state and federal goal.
The tool will help "close the remaining gaps in broadband access," she said. "There is still work to be done."
Although the map records Internet speeds at the block level, Mackenzie said nobody had reported privacy concerns. If it becomes an issue, she said, the state can address it.