How fast is your internet?

Advocates for high-speed internet service in Klickitat County are asking rural residents for help answering that question as the county partners with the State of Washington and others to secure federal funding to expand rural internet service.

Initial deadline for a county-wide “speed test” is May 12.

Klickitat County Commissioners approved a request for technical assistance through the Washington State Broadband Office to conduct a feasibility study for rural residents; this will help determine the fiscal sustainability of expanded internet service.

Meanwhile, Washington State University Extension and the Washington State Department of Commerce are working with local counties to develop strategic frameworks for broadband expansion, with an eye on anticipated $65 billion in federal funding nationally.

That would amount to some $900 million in Washington State, according to Carrie Pipinich, Deputy Director of Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, and local coordinator for the effort. This is a bi-state economic agency representing Klickitat, Skamania, Wasco, Hood River and Sherman counties.

Better data are needed to make a case for federal and state investment in rural Klickitat County.

And, better data collection means taking a speed test.

To help with that, people are asked to visit and follow the link from “Breaking News.” (Oregon residents can take the test, since Oregon is also collecting data in preparation for its own federal funding.)

Timing is of the essence. People are asked to complete the speed test no later than May 12 in order for information to be included in Klickitat County’s broadband plan. (The speed test is on-going; information gathered after May 12 will still help develop later planning efforts. But the urgent focus is on the county-wide plan.)

Funding will be directed toward people who are unserved or under-served by high-speed internet – which means most people living outside the city limits of Bingen, White Salmon, Goldendale.

A speed test compares the “reported” internet speeds for a given home with the homeowner’s actual experience in receiving internet service. If your home does not have access to enough bandwidth to take the test, you can still go to the website at a different location and mark your address as unserved.

“Internet providers report data to the federal government, but those reports often do not reflect real-world situations,” said Jenne Patterson, a Snowden Community Council member who co-chairs that council’s broadband committee. “We need to learn about people’s actual experiences to make certain we can make a strong case for federal funding. Affordable, fast internet service is essential for people living in rural areas of Klickitat County.”

Federal funding agencies define “unserved” as less than 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload, and underserved as less than 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

“Download” means the speed at which you’re able to receive information from the internet to your computer; “upload” means sending information from your computer, such as sending email or a photo. The abbreviation “Mbps” is a standard measure of internet service speed.

Washington’s goal is 150 Mbps download and 150 Mbps upload for all residents and businesses by 2028 – an ambitious standard.

In addition to the speed tests, efforts are also under way through individual community councils, which collectively have formed a “Broadband Action Team” to gather local stakeholder information and guidance for the county-wide plan, which will be completed in June. One meeting, with Lyle, Trout Lake and Snowden community councils, took place April 15 in Lyle and others are planned for May.

“Bottom line, it’s vital that we work together to provide an accurate real-world view of the broadband unserved and underserved communities in Klickitat County,” Patterson said. “We can only provide the reality of internet quality with the help of the people who live here.”

For information, email Carrie Pipinich, or call (541) 296-2266.