In Idaho there are haves and have-nots. Let’s take broadband access seriously.

People are moving to Idaho in record numbers, and I don’t blame them.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a place where outdoor recreation is easily accessible in pristine forests, mountains, rivers and lakes? However, Idaho’s infrastructure is not state of the art to handle the influx of population that we are witnessing. The lack of broadband infrastructure in particular is a problem that puts Idaho at risk of falling behind other states in terms of progress.

That’s why we created the Imagine Idaho Foundation.

The Imagine Idaho Foundation’s mission is to bring broadband infrastructure to rural Idaho so people can live anywhere and still have access to education, healthcare and more. Most incorporated cities and counties are either underserved or unserved when it comes to broadband.

Idaho could receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal broadband infrastructure funding targeted at local cities and counties. However, many counties and communities do not have the resources or knowledge to undertake broadband projects.

Federal Communications Commission mapping methods drastically exaggerate coverage across the country. Comparing BroadbandNow and FCC data from 2021, Politico Tech reporter John Hendel reported that the FCC underestimated the number of Idahoans without Internet access by 260,000.

Getting accurate data through precise mapping will allow communities to take care of the dollars they make. That’s where the Imagine Idaho Foundation comes in.

Our work is free to the communities we serve. We assist with community engagement plans, one-time grants, speed testing, pre-engineering studies, cost analysis, establishing well-designed coverage plans, and preparing successful Idaho grant applications.

Our current projects include Benewah, Camas, Latah, Owyhee, Shoshone, Teton and Valley counties. We work with the City of McCall and the Port of Lewiston and plan to expand to other counties soon.

Five of our current projects are participating in an internet speed test crowdsourcing campaign starting this month to assess broadband availability in these areas. The system we use gathers information down to the household to get a more accurate picture of what is happening.

Other mapping systems collect information using census block information, which may not represent all residents in that area. This data will enable these counties to effectively allocate funds to build out their infrastructure. It will notify the federal government of our lack of connectivity and help us qualify for more infrastructure resources for Idahoans. We look forward to the results at this exciting time.

As a nonprofit organization, the Imagine Idaho Foundation depends on the support of like-minded organizations to continue our work. We have formed a coalition of industry leaders, business development associations, counties, municipalities, associations and more to spread our message. The JA and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, Regence BlueShield of Idaho, Innovia Foundation and the Idaho Association of Counties are just a few of our dedicated coalition members. Visit www.imagineidaho.org to find out more about our organization, or by email [email protected].

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