El Paso Matters is one of several local news organizations that is partnering with Consumer Reports, the nationally recognized nonprofit consumer advocacy publication, for the launch of the Broadband Together initiative, which seeks to uncover what people across the country pay for internet service and what the speed and quality of that service is.

The coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of broadband, which is fast enough to support Zoom and other virtual meeting services needed for remote work and school.

“The internet is not a luxury — it’s a necessity,” said Marta Tellado, president and chief executive officer of Consumer Reports. “Broadband must be available, accessible and affordable for all, including low-income households and rural areas. For too long, the true cost and quality of internet service has been hidden and obscured.”

A 2019 analysis by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance found that 15% of El Paso households don’t have internet either through a broadband or cellular data plan. 

Broadband Together aims to collect more than 30,000 internet bills from households across the country and will ask participants to test their internet speeds, upload a copy of their internet bill and answer a few questions about their service through this online portal. Users will need to create a free Consumer Reports account to participate.

Consumer Reports will analyze the cost, quality and speeds that users receive to understand why people in different regions pay different rates for the same service. Ultimately, the consumer organization hopes to use this data to persuade internet service providers and government officials to make quality broadband more affordable.

Consumer Reports will only analyze the price, bundle, speed and hidden fees listed on your bill. The information uploaded will be encrypted so it is protected and secure. Consumer Reports will delete the information when it’s no longer needed.

El Paso Matters hopes to use the data Consumer Reports collects to better report on internet access in our region.

In addition to El Paso Matters, other partner media organizations include The Verge, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.), The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.) and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisc.).

Cover photo: Fourth-grader Brittany Torres watches a video for class March 22, 2021, while attending school remotely using a city Wi-Fi hotspot from the family’s apartment in McAllen, Texas. (Denise Cathey/Special to El Paso Matters)