The National Broadband Map Gets an Update

Tue, September 20, 2011 by Anne Neville, Director of NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative

Earlier this year, we launched a ground-breaking interactive online map that shows what high-speed Internet services are available across the country. Like the spread of railroads and electrification spurred new economic opportunities during America’s past, broadband is supporting new economic opportunities in America today. Experts agree that we must better understand where sufficient broadband exists in order to address where it does not.

The National Broadband Map, powered by a searchable database of more than 20 million records, has already drawn more than 500,000 different users. Today we are rolling out the first significant update of the map since it was unveiled in February. The map has new data, current as of December 31. And the number of broadband providers supplying that data has increased to 1,731, up from 1,650 at launch.

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. Including them in the map will help ensure that consumers shopping for broadband service are aware of all their options.

In addition, 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.

The map is an ambitious, unprecedented undertaking – the result of the most extensive set of American broadband availability data ever published – and it is only possible because of a unique federal-state-private partnership. NTIA created and is updating the map twice yearly in collaboration with the FCC, using data that every state, territory, and the District of Columbia (or their designees) collects from broadband providers or other sources.

Together with our grantees in the states, we continue working to make the data an even stronger tool for users. For example, we provide technical assistance to the grantees to help them address challenges that arise in the field. And grantees have developed best practice methodologies in many areas, such as evaluating changes in provider participation, defining classes of broadband technology, and reflecting satellite coverage.

In addition, the public is using the crowdsourcing feature to alert us if, say, a list of local broadband providers is incomplete or incorrect. The tool has already drawn more than 40,000 submissions, much of which confirms the map’s underlying data. In other cases, the public has identified errors, which we pass on to our grantees to support their ongoing data verification efforts. (By the way, enter your street address – not city name or zip code – for the most accurate results.)

The map serves many types of users. Business owners and consumers can type in their address and see a list of local broadband providers, along with details on their maximum advertised speeds and the technology used to provide the service. Economic developers can use the map to market particular communities to businesses and residents looking for cutting-edge telecommunications services.

Research firms and academics can figure out which states, counties, and census blocks have the fastest broadband connections and compare those findings with demographic data, such as income and race. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, for example, has already done a study on broadband access and demographics using the dataset published in February. Policymakers can use the map to help craft policies that support private sector investment in broadband. And application developers can combine the data with additional information for further analysis or other new uses.

This is America’s map. Let us know how you are using it too.

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