A Crowdsourced National Broadband Census: The Time is Now!

Broadband Data, Expert Opinion, FCC, National Broadband Plan July 19th, 2009

, Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

By Drew Clark, Editor and Executive Director, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2009 - Over at O’Reilly’s Radar, Carl Malamud discusses the need for a crowdsourced national communiations census, or a broadband census.

He writes:

My last tour of duty in DC was Chief Technology Officer at the Center for American Progress. One of the fun things I got to do was figure out what everybody else did, including my fellow Senior Fellows, the folks that generated most of the policy work, many of whom are now occupying senior posts in the new administration.

One of the most fascinating was Mark Lloyd. An experienced Emmy-winning television producer, communications lawyer, and community activist, Mark is the author of a well-regarded book aboutcommunications and democracy and numerous columns. He’s currently at the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights.

The project Mark Lloyd was working on was a National Broadband Map to show our true communications capabilities. And, he wanted to crowd-source the map from community groups, supplementing that with census and other data from several different places to create a big mash-up. This was in 2005, around the same time Adrian Holovaty was thinking about chicagocrime.org.

Here’s my reply on the O’Reilly web site:

Carl, thanks for your comment. One of the things that BroadbandCensus.com has been doing since our launch, in January 2008, is to provide a crowdsourced, public and transparent collection of data about local broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. We call this the Broadband ‘SPARC.’

We also filed comments at the FCC in the National Broadband Strategy, which you can read at http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/06/broadbandcensuscom-urges-public-broadband-map-with-sparc-scores. We use the open-source Network Diagnostic Tool created by Internet2 for our tests.

Mark Lloyd and I have talked quite a bit about the importance of this effort since at least 2006. That’s when I began an effort to make sure that the public had access to basic broadband data — or what we now call the Broadband SPARC — when I headed the Center for Public Integrity’s telecommunications project. You can read more about that effort here: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/02/infrastructure-investment-decisions-need-transparency.ars.

And as regards Baylink’s comments, I’ve reached out to BroadbandReports.com in an effort to find ways in which speed test information (those on BroadbandCensus.com, those by Measurement Lab, those on Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program’s, and those of others like DSLReports/BroadbandReports), could all be mashed together and reused in a great variety of ways. The Berkman Center is also well aware of our efforts.

At BroadbandCensus.com, everything on our site is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, so that the data-sets we’ve accumulated can be publicly redisplayed and redeployed for free by academics, policy-makers and government officials.

Additionally, on our news and events side, BroadbandCensus.com has provided news and information about broadband access, broadband policy and broadband deployment, as well as hosting the monthly Broadband Breakfast Club on the second Tuesday of each month. We publish timely and topical daily news on broadband, from the broadband stimulus package to proposals for a universal broadband fund; from the national broadband plan to wireless broadband offerings, as well as our subscription-based BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report.

Feel free to contact me at drew@broadbandcensus.com.

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