Massachusetts Broadband Institute Will Use Mapping to Identify Unserved and Underserved Areas

Broadband Data, States May 10th, 2009

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WASHINGTON, May 10, 2009 – The Massachusetts Broadband Institute on Wednesday announced that it would work with the MassGIS, the state’s Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, to begin to develop a block-level map of broadband infrastructure.

The project is expected to take four months, and will focus on the unserved and underserved communities in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hamden counties in the western portion of the state.

The announcement once again puts Massachusetts at the forefront of the states that have developing policies pertaining to broadband infrastructure and deployment.

In August, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed legislation devoting $40 million of state resources to ensuring broadband availability to every citizen of the state.

The passage of the fiscal stimulus legislation with $7.2 billion for broadband, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has led Massachusetts to also aim to tap into the federal funds to leverage its state resources.

According to the press release about the partnership, the map “will incorporate multiple data sets into one map, creating an extensive inventory of existing assets and a detailed picture of where broadband gaps need to be addressed.” The press release about the agreement is here. [PDF]

“This project will provide a way to incorporate public input regarding coverage gaps experienced by Massachusetts residents and will put more sophisticated data to work in support of Governor Patrick’s goal to bridge the digital divide in Massachusetts by 2011,” said Sharon Gillett, who was named MBI director last month.

Gillett had been the head of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable before taking the position as the head of MBI.

“In addition to helping the MBI make immediate operational and investment decisions in western Massachusetts, the interactive GIS platform created will be scalable in the longer term and well positions Massachusetts for state-wide mapping with federal funding through the Recovery Act,” said Gillett.

“This mapping project is a critical next step towards prioritizing specific and targeted broadband investments,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki.

Housing and Economic Development officially announced the partnership with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environment Affairs. MassGIS, or the Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, officially operates out of that agency.

Massachusetts’ existing broadband map is available here. [1.65 Mb PDF] It is based upon information about which carriers offer broadband within a particular township or ZIP code.

Because the state makes the underlying data about the names of the carriers publicly available, independent entities are able to make sure of the information. has incorporated the carrier-specific information from Massachusetts into its public database of the Broadband SPARC – or local broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition.

In a presentation to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Gillett released two additional maps that show carrier-specific cable, telecommunications and wireless service footprints within Massachusetts. These Massachusetts maps are available on the NTIA web site. [PPTX]

In the NTIA presentation, Gillett also made the following point: “Transparency and accountability demand that if maps inform how public funds are spent, map data can be reviewed publicly.” The Gillett presentation to the NTIA is also available on the NTIA web site. [PPT]

Broadband Breakfast Club

Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the May 12, 2009, Broadband Breakfast Club at Clyde’s at Gallery Place. The theme of the April meeting will be, “Spending the Stimulus: How Can Unserved and Underserved Areas Best Be Defined?” Register at

Confirmed speakers include Rep. Rick Boucher, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee, Randolph J. May, President, Free State Foundation; Jean Plymale, Virginia Tech eCorridors Program; James Bradford Ramsey, General Counsel, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; and S. Derek Turner, Research Director, Free Press.

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