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A Crowdsourced National Broadband Census: The Time is Now!

in Broadband Data/Expert Opinion/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

By Drew Clark, Editor and Executive Director,

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

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

Carl, thanks for your comment. One of the things that 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 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:

And as regards Baylink's comments, I've reached out to in an effort to find ways in which speed test information (those on, 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, 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, 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 Weekly Report.

Feel free to contact me at

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of and President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress. His telecommunications-focused law firm, Drew Clark PLLC, works with cities, rural communities and state economic development entities to promote the benefits of internet connectivity. The articles and posts on and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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