Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has partnered with Consumer Reports, the nationally recognized nonprofit consumer advocacy publication, to find out what people pay for Internet service, what speeds they get and the quality of service.
The Sentinel Journal is one of four news outlets, including The Verge, in the Broadband together initiative which aims to collect more than 30,000 Internet bills from households across the country. Through an online portal, participants can test their Internet speeds and answer a few questions about their service.
Consumer Reports will analyze the cost, quality, and speeds as users learn to understand why people pay different rates for the same service.
Ultimately, the association hopes to use the data to persuade internet service providers and government officials to make quality broadband more affordable.
Wisconsin officials have estimated that about 430,000 people in the state – nearly 22 percent of the rural population – lack broadband, also known as high-speed internet.
The problem extends to a large part of rural America. Millions of people have inadequate internet service, but the extent of the problem is not known because data from the Federal Communications Commission grossly underestimates coverage gaps.
Add to that the question of affordability. Even though broadband is available, the owner of a small family farm trying to stay afloat financially may not be able to afford it. It is a problem shared with urban America; only a tiny fraction of the city’s residents don’t have access to it, but for many it’s just too expensive.
Consumer Reports says it will only analyze the price, plan, speed, and hidden charges shown on your bill. The downloaded information will be encrypted to keep it protected and secure, and it will be deleted once it is no longer needed.
âTo create a better market, we need to know the truth about our Internet prices and costs,â Jonathan Schwantes, senior legal counsel for Consumer Reports, said in a statement.
âSurprisingly, some bills don’t even show the price consumers pay for Internet service. This effort is aimed at giving broadband consumers the transparency they so badly need, and the facts we need to make the case. of better quality and affordable prices, “said Schwantes.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband, which is fast enough to support the virtual meeting services needed for remote work and school.
âInternet is not a luxury. It’s a necessity, âMarta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports, said in a statement. âBroadband must be available, accessible and affordable for everyone, including low-income households and rural areas. For too long, the true cost and quality of Internet service has been hidden and obscured. “
In addition to Journal Sentinel and The Verge, other Broadband Together news outlets include The Times-Picayune in New Orleans; The Advocate, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana .; and El Paso Matters, Texas.
Broadband Together also includes more than 40 organizations across the country. Some of the members of the steering committee are: American Library Association, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, Broadband Now, Color of Change, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, mLab, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, Rural Assembly, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, and The X-Lab @ PSU.