The National Telecommunications and Information Administration yesterday rolled out what it called “the first significant update” of the National Broadband Map since it was unveiled in February. The move comes as part of a planned twice-yearly update of the interactive map, which was created—in part—with funding from the broadband stimulus program. The map has new data, current as of December 31, 2010, the NTIA said.

When the plan was initially unveiled in February, it drew substantial criticism, including some from Telecompetitor readers. ID Insight, which maintains its own database about nationwide broadband availability, did a detailed critique for the state of Arizona, noting that its data agreed with the National Broadband Map data only 85% of the time in the state’s more rural counties.

Much of the criticism seemed to result from the NTIA’s data collection methodology, which relied on broadband service providers to respond to an inquiry. This time around, the number of service providers responding to the information request increased from 1650 to 1731, wrote Anne Neville, director of the NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative, in a blog post.

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“Most of these new additions are small providers, including rural companies in places as varied as Alaska and Massachusetts, that may not be household names,” wrote Neville. “Including them in the map will help ensure that consumers shopping for broadband service are aware of all their options.”

The NTIA also has made some functional changes to the map, Neville said. “The map now offers a new research tool that produces snapshots of individual broadband providers, showing where they offer service, what speeds they offer and how much of the country or of a particular state or county they cover,” she said.

Initially at least the National Broadband Map was used quite heavily. A month after its launch, the FCC noted that the site had received an average of more than 1,000 requests per second.

Neville’s blog post did not discuss current traffic levels, but it did note that the NTIA had received more than 40,000 comments from users of the map, which the administration urged people to use if they noted that a list of local broadband providers was incomplete or incorrect. According to Neville, much of that input confirmed the map’s underlying data.

At the time the map was unveiled, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted that it was based on open application interfaces aimed at enabling web developers to create applications that draw on map data—and Neville pointed to one organization that has done so. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has done a study on broadband access and demographics using the dataset published in February, she said.

In addition, Telecompetitor has noted that voice and Internet services provider Bandwidth.com has created an interactive application that draws on map data to enable potential business customers to identify service providers offering DSL and Ethernet-over-copper in their area.

Telecompetitor invites any readers that previously had concerns about the National Broadband Map to check whether those concerns have been addressed and to share your comments with other readers using the site’s comment function.

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