News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Linn County works to boost rural broadband

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Linn county is aiming to close the gap between communities that have high-speed internet and those that do not, with new funding in place to target rural areas such as the Santiam Canyon and Scio.

Linn, Lincoln and Benton counties are working with the Cascades West Council Governments on the project, which is starting with $60,000 in funding that organizers hope to leverage into another $300,000 grant.

The first step, however, is identifying the severity of the problem, and area residents can play a big role in that process, said Steve Braaten, technology director for Linn County.

Over the next three months residents can test their internet speed by going to www.fasterinternetoregon.org. Braaten reports the county has received limited response to date from Scio and the Santiam Canyon cities of Mill City, Lyons and Gates “and the timelines are important.”

“We understand that rebuilding still is active up in the Canyon,” Braaten said, “but we’re still trying to get more results from up there so we can work to improve their fiber network. And we need to get people to take those tests to give us a good understanding.”

The speed gaps can vary widely depending on your internet service provider and your location. Braaten said that are “places in the Little North Fork area that have better internet than I do in North Albany.”

The current funding only applies to the testing and information gathering program, but Braaten says that “once we have the mapping completed then we can go in with grants for fiber. Right now we’re seeing unprecedented levels of federal dollars and we’re trying to capitalize on that.” 

The testing program ends later this spring. Braaten said that the goal is to get the gaps filled with faster internet within two years.

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