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Rock County businesses and economic development groups are participating in a regional broadband study to determine what steps need to be taken in the coming years to improve internet access for private use and business services.

The Rock County Development Agency is reaching out to county businesses and stakeholders to participate in the study of broadband internet speeds with the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) that launched in November, according to Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein. He said the data collected from the study will help with identifying existing broadband speeds in the county, while highlighting areas with limited or no access.

The need for the study comes from previous data collections by state and federal officials was “inaccurate and or out-dated,” Otterstein said.

“Considering the significant increase in remote work, as well as the uptick in the delivery of educational and health services to the home via the internet, the importance of having a robust broadband network cannot be overlooked,” Otterstein said.

The Rock County Board of Supervisors has formed the Ad Hoc Broadband Committee to use information from the study as the foundation for developing and prioritizing future broadband-related investment recommendations through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic assistance later this year.

“While the ultimate or end goal is to eventually reach a point where fiber-to-the-home is the norm versus the exception, there are geographic, environmental and installation hurdles that create real challenges. In those instances, the logical next best option is to provide a wireless option,” Otterstein said.

Data for the study will be collected through March of this year, with the potential for an extension if further participation is needed, Otterstein added. The speed test does not use tracking cookies; and no personal data will be stored. Participants are asked to make sure that no one at the participant house or business is streaming or gaming while taking the speed test. Additionally, participants are asked to make sure their work/school Virtual Private Network (VPN) turned off or deactivated.