ELLSWORTH — Thirty-five percent of households in Hancock County lack access to adequate internet service, according to data published in mid-January by ConnectME, the agency tasked with expanding broadband coverage in Maine.
State officials want to change that, but first they need to know how fast your internet connection is.
“Evaluating our broadband needs is the first step to solving them,” said Heather Johnson, acting commissioner for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), in a press release on Jan. 17.
ConnectME is asking residents to record and report their internet speeds to help fill in gaps in data. The agency already has some information, compiled with the help of internet providers and consultants.
According to that data, at least 8,290 of Hancock County’s 23,674 households are “unserved,” meaning residents recorded speeds less than the state benchmark of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.
Orland had the highest number of households with inadequate service, according to ConnectME’s data, with 1,184 considered unserved. This was followed by Brooksville (802), Dedham (702) and Sedgwick (681).
Ellsworth was eighth, with 556 households recording speeds less than 25 Mbps. Four towns — Amherst, Mariaville, Osborn and Great Pond — did not record any households with inadequate broadband speeds.
Accurate data on broadband coverage is hard to come by, even for federal agencies whose job it is to measure it.
Last February, Democratic Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel criticized the agency’s recently released national map of broadband coverage, writing in a statement: “I looked up my house and can tell you with good authority it lists service that is not available at my location.”
Part of the issue is that the FCC uses census blocks, which can span neighborhoods and even counties, to report its data. This means that if one address in a census block is considered served, all addresses are.
ConnectME worked with internet providers and private consulting groups to collect data for the state, but is hoping for help getting a more accurate picture. Residents are asked to go to www.maine.gov/connectme/communities-resources/Broadbandmapping and use the “speed test” resource to record how quickly their computers are uploading and downloading files and then report this information using the form on the website.
“We are hoping that residents, businesses and providers will help us update this list to ensure that we have captured all of the areas that do not have access to effective broadband service,” Johnson said.