Considering that the nation’s new interactive broadband map contains 25 million data points that can be searched in numerous ways, it’s impossible to devise a headline that summarizes what the new map reveals about the state of broadband deployment in the U.S. today.
Instead the telecompetitor community will find it more interesting to check out the map on their own and use its interactive functionality to graphically display data about their own local area, which they can do at the county or census tract level by using zoom functionality akin to what is provided by sites such as Mapquest. Users can find out how many service providers serve a particular area by technology or speed—and can even see the names of each provider (check it out to see if your territory is accurate and let us know in the comments section below).
“It’s more than just a map; it’s a huge database of information,” said Lawrence Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on a webcast with reporters this morning where the map was unveiled.
Using the interactive map platform, users can see a display of key data about their local area, such as the number of anchor institutions and how many of those institutions can get broadband at a specific speed.
The one specific finding that really jumped out at me relates to those anchor institutions. Two-thirds of surveyed schools subscribe to broadband service at speeds lower than 25 Mb/s, even though studies by state education technology directors have found that most schools need a connection of 50 Mb/s to 100 Mb/s per 1000 students. And only four percent of libraries subscribe to broadband at speeds greater than 25 Mb/s.
It’s not clear whether this situation exists because the anchor institutions cannot afford higher speeds or because high-speed broadband is not available. My guess is that it’s a bit of both. An important goal of the middle mile stimulus awards made by the NTIA was to improve broadband availability for anchor institutions —and it will be interesting to track the gains made by anchor institutions as a result, which should now be relatively easy to do, as the plan is to update the national broadband map twice yearly.
The NTIA and the broadband stimulus program also were responsible, in large part, for the creation of the new broadband map. Each of the 50 states, as well as key U.S. territories and the District of Columbia received stimulus funding to gather data for the map. The NTIA collected and verified that data, as well as developing the interactive platform.
The interactive map will be a “useful tool for businesses looking to expand” because it will enable them to easily identify areas with broadband connectivity, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on today’s webcast. Genachowski added that the map also uses open application programming interfaces, which should enable web developers to create applications that draw on the map data.
The map also has a function to let users view the results of broadband speed tests that users have been conducting nationwide using tools developed at the direction of the FCC.