Internet speed test gathers valuable data for WI DPI
March 24, 2021
In this virtual world, having slow internet service is debilitating. That’s why, as many schools continue with their virtual learning formats, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is working to collect data about home internet speeds. Some families and school districts are specifically being asked to take speed tests to collect data.
“Some people don’t have the speed they need to even take the test,” said Rachel Schemelin, division of libraries and technology, Wisconsin DPI. “For others, there is no internet available at all.”
These challenges make it difficult or, in some cases, completely impossible for students to participate in virtual education, complete and turn in assignments, and keep crucial connections and communications with relatives and classmates. If there are two people in a home using video and one is a student, 25 megabits per second of internet speed is the minimum necessary speed required for success. Having more than two people streaming video requires more speed, Schemelin said.
“I think this data really quantifies what families have been reporting,” she said. “This is really important. The more we can have users take these speed tests, the more data we can gather and the better picture [of the situation] we can get.”
To take the test, visit dpi.wi.gov/broadband and click Broadband Speed Test in the menu along the left side of the page. The process is user-friendly and can be done multiple times a day from the same device, Schemelin said. In fact, it’s encouraged that tests be done at various times of the day because service varies depending on the time of day.
“This data can be used by local organizations as well as the governor’s task force,” she said.
The median download speed for the state of Wisconsin is 28.07 Mb/s, according to Schemelin. Green County’s median download speed is 13.05 Mb/s while Rock County’s is 30.75 Mb/s. Over a collection period of 90 days and data from 22 speed tests submitted, the median download speed for the city of Brodhead is 5.02 Mb/s.
The villages of Footville, Hanover and Orfordville have decent internet service but outside those village limits, service is sketchy at best, said Parkview School District Administrator Steve Lutzke. The district is encouraging its families and community members to complete the speed test to more accurately show the internet problem.
Lutzke said in order to address this issue, Parkview purchased WiFi cellular hotspots for its students and their families to have at least some internet service. Hotspots are better than nothing but the internet speed they offer is not on the same level as true internet service, he said.
“Slow internet causes frustration for the student, parent and teacher,” he said. “Additionally the hotspots each cost $40 per month, which has a big impact on Parkview’s budget.”
Though the transition from traditional classrooms to virtual classrooms in 2020 was initially concerning, students and families within the Brodhead School District had a relatively smooth changeover, said Superintendent Leonard Lueck.
“We’ve actually been pleasantly surprise with our overall success with internet speeds and student connectivity,” he said. “We did have to give out a couple of hotspots but once we got computers into the hands of all families, things went smoothly.”