IDAHO -


While many folks rely on their cell phones even more than computers, some areas in rural Idaho can't access broadband on cell phones.

"There is a statewide initiative, a test if you will, that's going on, and it's important for Eastern Idaho to weigh in on that," said Stephanie Cook, program manager for technical based economic development at the Idaho National Laboratory.

That can be done by downloading a smartphone app created by the state's broadband team, LinkIDAHO. The app is called "LinkIDAHO Mobile Test." It runs in the background of the phone, and notices when it enters a dead spot.

"In rural areas, especially where we are at, we have problem with our broadband services and our wireless services in general," said Randy Mead, general manager of Mudlake Telephone Company in DuBois.

LinkIDAHO is using data from the app to create a coverage map. Cell phone service providers already map their service, but LinkIDAHO wants to take a more specific look at the exact dead zones in Idaho.

"It's a second check on that. We know that there are some gaps on coverage, and we want to improve that coverage and access in rural Idaho," said Cook.

Providers like Verizon, AT&T and Century Link are working with LinkIDAHO. The results of the year-long test will determine where more towers are needed.

Mead's company recently installed fiber to the tower in little town of Spencer, which allows for broadband. Mobile companies are technically his competitors, and he says the demand is increasing for mobile devices.

"We are losing land lines all the time because people are relying on their cell phones," Mead said.

Mike Fields, the state broadband coordinator, agrees.

"Think of the progress we made over the last 10 years. There has been a lot better coverage, a lot more towers, and lot more access to mobile services. It looks like that's where everything is going, is really to mobile," he said.

Once the results roll in, LinkIDAHO will look to connect identified dead spots with federal grants and other funding opportunities to expand their coverage. 

The app is secure, and location information is anonymous. It can be found by searching "LinkIDAHO" in the app store for Apple or Droid.

LINKIdaho will host a webinar on August 27 to introduce the app and answer any questions. For more information, visit: http://linkidaho.org/lid/default.aspx?page=8