Editor's Note: The following is my own audio transcript of the question I asked Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, at the Brookings Institution event on Friday.
-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com
My name is Drew Clark, and I've just started a Web service called BroadbandCensus.com, and we are about providing the public with free information about availability and also competition, speeds and prices of broadband.
With regard to broadband availability, and mapping broadband, you mentioned of course Virginia's interest in this, as many states have, and there seems to be different approaches emerging to this.
One approach is collecting information, but keeping it confidential, and not allowing information about who the carriers are that are providing broadband. The other approach, which actually Virginia Tech's eCorridors Program has pioneered, involves identifying the carriers so that consumers can know who is offering broadband, and who isn't offering broadband, and also see the prices and fees associated with those carriers.
I wanted to ask you whether Virginia has made a decision on which approach it wants to take as it pursues broadband mapping, and why would you, if you do, choose the confidential approach.
It is a work in progress. I am fortunate in that the chairman of my broadband committee who is working on this is a guy who knows a little bit about the telecom industry: Mark Warner has agreed to chair it. [Mark Warner, the Virginia Democratic governor who preceded Kaine, was a cellular telecommunications executive before being elected in 2001.]
I think he came in thinking, the governor has asked me to do it as a favor; but as he has gotten into it, he has gotten very excited.
But you put your finger on a very interesting point, which is, at the first level, we are doing build-out in areas that we know that we need to -- the rural parts of south side, eastern shore, connecting the industrial parks -- but there is a project, as we are doing the build-outs, that is an important one, and that is to get the best current data on the percentages of homes in Virginia that are served with direct broadband access.
In working on that question, we have found in working with providers, that a lot of providers would share information with us, but only if their competitors don't get to see it, and if it is held in a proprietary way.
Obviously, it is very important -- in some ways, this whole discussion really is about choice, whether it is transportation, aviation, public transit/rail/roads -- and then we are over on the telecom side, we want people to know what their choices are.
So, there will probably be a second step, of what we'll do, where we say, 'how can we take the information now that we have it, and make that information available for Virginia citizens so that they will know what choices they have.
But in the early stages of trying to determine the percentages -- it interested me that there isn't a lot of good data in Virginia or anywhere about what percentage of homes are served by the most types of broadband -- so we are trying to get our hands on that question first, and in doing that, we will probably keep a good bit of that information for ourselves, because we will not be getting it otherwise.
But the next step has to be how do we then give that broadband information to the consumers so that they can pick.
Articles Referenced in this Transcript:
Telecom and Transportation Should Be Focus of Infrastructure Investments, Says Think Tank (BroadbandCensus.com, July 28)