WASHINGTON, February 18, 2009 - Art Brodsky, communications director at Public Knowledge, has just posted a new piece about Connected Nation. In it, he writes:
The new stimulus package just signed by President Obama has $350 million in it for broadband mapping, yet even before the bill was signed, the danger warnings for this program are glaringly obvious: Who will control the information on broadband deployment? If the program is done correctly, then the program may bring some benefits to the effort to include all Americans in the digital economy. If not, much of the money will be wasted.
Increasingly, it is beginning to look as if the program will be done at the mercy of the big telecommunications companies, who will seek to submit the information they want to submit, on the terms and conditions on which they want to submit it.
State governments, working months before the stimulus package was conceived, are ramping up their own programs to map deployment of broadband, and are finding they are already increasingly running into conflicts over the type of data they will receive. Some states want comprehensive, granular data. However, they are finding that the telecommunications industry, often represented by Connected Nation (CN), doesn’t want to give it to them. The result is a clash of policy objectives and politics that’s taking place across the country, in states ranging from North Carolina to Alabama, Colorado and Minnesota. Connected Nation’s board of directors is dominated by representatives of large telecom carriers, as CN positions itself as the best choice for states and the Federal government to spend millions of stimulus dollars on broadband mapping.
For more than a year, BroadbandCensus.com has been building an alternative to the proprietary-information model of Connected Nation.
I founded BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 because I believe that data about local broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition should be publicly available. For more than a year, we have been collecting information from everyday citizens, through a process of “crowdsourcing” about their individual broadband connections. Individuals visiting BroadbandCensus.com are invited to Take the Broadband Census by answering a simple seven-question survey about their location, who provides them with broadband, their promised speed, and their level of satisfaction.
After Taking the Broadband Census, individuals may test their speed. We use the open source Network Diagnostic Tool of Internet2 to test their upload and download speeds, and the results are then publicly displayed and available for all, under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License.
Our biggest challenge to take has been to get the word out to more and more people, about the existence of BroadbandCensus.com, and about the need for more people to get involved in broadband mapping.
We have also begun to roll out our BroadbandCensus.com Broadband Wiki, which is designed to aggregate data about the state of broadband across the nation — by state, by county, by city and by ZIP code.
Individuals who want to learn more about BroadbandCensus.com may contact me via email, drew at broadbandcensus.com, or by phone at 202-580-8196.