HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Wednesday joined with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to encourage consumers, businesses, and community organizations to participate in a new broadband speed test.

This year-long initiative is part of a focused “crowdsource” effort to map the state’s “digital divide.”

“Taking the #BroadbandTest is quick and easy: a few clicks of the keyboard or mouse and about 30 seconds of your time,” said PUC Commissioner Norman J. Kennard. “The data from these tests will help us generate a ‘real-world’ picture of internet access speeds across Pennsylvania and help identify the areas of greatest need.

“Working together, we anticipate more than 1 million tests from Pennsylvania residents as a part of this crowdsourced broadband speed map – every test run helps drive this research forward. The better our maps, the clearer our understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing our communities, and the better equipped we will be to identify the necessary resources to move Pennsylvania forward.”

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is sponsoring the research by the Pennsylvania State University, who are using the data to analyze and assess broadband availability across the state.

Barry Denk, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania commented, “This project is a perfect example of the practical, results-oriented research the Center undertakes to provide meaningful, real-time information to the PA General Assembly and others in state government as critical public policies are debated.”

Those interested in helping this broadband mapping effort should visit the testing website at: http://broadbandtest.us/. The speed test takes approximately 30 seconds and automatically transmits data to researchers.  It also displays a summary of the results for participants. These tests do not collect personal identifying information.

The research is being led by Professor Sascha Meinrath, Director, X-Lab and Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State University.

The PUC has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of lost federal broadband funding fueling a growing economic divide between communities and businesses that have access to higher internet speeds, and those that do not. Additionally, the Commission has supported the launch of a new statewide broadband investment incentive program, and has launched a rulemaking process intended to more quickly resolve disputes over access to utility poles, which is a key issue for enhanced broadband deployment.