Sheffield covered bridge

The town of Sheffield is urging residents and small business owners to participate in a survey to learn where there are gaps in internet service or slow speeds. Sheffield’s iconic covered bridge is seen above.

SHEFFIELD — Have a weak or spotty internet connection? The state wants to know.

The town is asking all Sheffield residents and small-business owners to participate in the state’s Broadband Equity Access and  Deployment — or “BEAD” — survey. The statewide “BEAD Challenge” is meant to help the state identify where internet service is slower than 100 megabits per second for downloads, and slower than 20 Mbps for uploads.

Or, where service is “reported as available but is not.”

For years the town’s internet speeds have been inconsistent. Amid complaints lodged by residents, the town has worked to solve the problem, and in 2022, even considered the feasibility of building its own fiber-optic broadband system. 

The town has sent out and posted a notice with a link to step-by-step instructions on how to test their speeds and participate, saying, “it’s important to document all Sheffield locations, so take the Challenge to help gather data on the availability and quality of internet service.”

The effort began on June 20 and will continue through July 20.

The data will identify the areas of town that lack service or have poor service, and help the town get state or federal money to improve speeds, the town’s notice says.

Rene Wood, former longtime Select Board member and now liaison for this initiative, is available to answer questions or help residents complete the challenge, she said in a letter to the editor sent to The Eagle.

“After years of complaining about our internet speeds &/or for some, the inability to get internet due to a large installation fee, it’s time to act,” Wood wrote.

Wood said the test also will help residents learn whether they are getting the speeds they are paying for from telecommunications companies.

“Also,” Wood wrote, “if you’ve not been able to afford the internet installation charge, there’s a way to challenge this.”

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Wood noted, can also help residents submit such a challenge. 

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