Santa Barbara County residents asked to test internet speed

Santa Barbara County is asking residents to complete an online survey and speed test to help identify areas of the county with poor internet connectivity.

Phase one of a project to improve internet access in Santa Barbara County started Tuesday. The aim of the project is to identify the areas that need a better connection or figure out who doesn’t have connection at all.

Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne says the goal is to get everyone connected.

“It’s basically become a utility that we all should have access to fair and equitably,” she explained.

Whether your internet is too slow or too expensive, Santa Barbara County wants to help get those who need it connected. The program is funded by state and federal grants.

“We need to show that the funding that’s been set aside based on lack of service, we’ve identified where that actually is because they have the numbers but we don’t know where that’s actually located,” continued Osborne.

In order to get that data, the Broadband Alliance of Santa Barbara County was formed. Every city in Santa Barbara County plus the unincorporated areas joined together to solve the problem as one, instead of each city alone.

“What’s really important about this strategic plan is it brought communities together so we can think regionally, so we can apply now,” explained Lauren Bianchi Klemann, Public Information Officer for SBCAG.

The project relies on people at home. First, take the online speed test. That will let the researchers know if your connection falls between blue, being the fastest, to black which is basically a dead zone. Then, there’s a survey you can take anonymously that aims to understand specific needs and experiences regarding these services.

Right now, there are people all over the county struggling to stay connected. In a statement from Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, he explains the issues he’s seen and experienced.

“When students throughout Santa Ynez Valley moved to distance learning during the early days of the pandemic, it highlighted how spotty our connections are and how important it is to have reliable, high-speed internet access,” Kahn said. “Professionals and students found themselves in our rural part of the county with insufficient internet access, which made it a challenge to do business or connect with schools. Our tribe is partnering with EconAlliance and applying for federal grants to help make more broadband available in northern Santa Barbara County.”

To take the test, go to SBCAG’s website.

The deadline to take the internet speed test and survey is May 21.

Phase two of the plan will be a more targeted approach. Once they know the general areas that are seeing the most issues, they will reach out to people in those spots directly for more information.

People who do not have internet can call SBCAG at (805) 961-8902 to report why they do not have access.

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