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Eye On Boise

Rural Idaho libraries are seeing faster broadband service, bears or no…

Though Idaho achieved the dubious distinction this week of being declared the state with the slowest Internet by the New York Times - a study earlier this year showed Idaho has the nation's slowest residential Internet download speeds, the city with the slowest service anywhere was Pocatello, and some Idahoans apparently are having Internet service problems due to interference by bears - the Idaho Commission for Libraries says there's a bright spot in the gem state: Libraries. The commission is in the midst of a statewide broadband deployment initiative that's sharply increasing the broadband speeds at some of the state's least-connected public libraries. It's funded through grants from the Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gens Johnson, BTOP coordinator for the Idaho libraries commission, said, the “online@your library” project is making high-speed Internet available to more and more Idahoans, regardless of their residential service speeds.

Among the 56 mostly rural libraries that have benefited so far: The public library in tiny Preston, Idaho got 12 new computers and 11 mbps broadband connections; and the Sandpoint library jumped up to 45 mbps broadband and got 22 new computers. Libraries in the program have gone from average upload and download speeds of 1.5 mbps, to 11 mbps for downloads and 8 mbps for uploads. The program also adds wi-fi service to libraries so patrons can get service on their own computers. You can read the Commission for Libraries full statement here.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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