BLACKSBURG - While winter break brings a welcome reprieve from the demands of schoolwork and exams, it can also bring frustrations to those of us who must leave our lightning fast college Internet connections and return home to broadband dead zones. The irony of finally having the time to stream TV shows or play online games only to be obstructed by a slow Internet connection is disheartening.
Unfortunately, many areas of our state have limited or nonexistent access to broadband. This may only be a minor inconvenience for some (e.g., missing out on catching up on 30 Rock and having to bake Christmas cookies with your Aunt Rita instead), but it has major implications for many. Inadequate broadband services hold back many Virginia communities' economic growth since jobs that require broadband are expected to increase much more quickly than others over the next ten years.
The Accelerate Virginia campaign is working to increase awareness of the power of broadband and identify areas where access to broadband is limited or not available at all. The campaign is asking college students going home for the holidays to take a speed test of their own and then encourage their friends and family to do the same. Patrick Fay communications manager for Accelerate Virginia said, "We are asking everyone in Virginia with an Internet connection to participate by taking a speed test. And by passing the word on to their friends and family, in person or by Facebook and Twitter, students in the state can really make an impact."
Whether you have a broadband connection at home or not, please visit http://acceleratevirginia.org/speedtest/ to run a brief Internet speed test. Your input will help the campaign to create an accurate map of broadband availability in Virginia that will highlight localities that are in need of broadband infrastructure investment.
Participation in the campaign will also help you to identify alternatives to your existing Internet connection. After completing the speed test, you will receive a detailed review of your broadband connection and a summary of what others in your community are reporting about their service, including provider names, connection types, speed averages, and satisfaction ratings.
Increased access to broadband throughout Virginia will benefit all of us by facilitating economic growth. This translates to increased employment for our communities and more job opportunities for us when we graduate. Please remember to run a speed test over the holidays and encourage your family members and friends to do the same.Sara Grant, a junior from Blacksburg, Va., majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, is a writer for the Accelerate Virginia campaign.