By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com; and Rahul Gaitonde, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com
WASHINGTON, October 12, 2009 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration last week awarded the first four broadband data and mapping grants to organizations that are not Connected Nation.
The awards will fund broadband data and mapping in California, Indiana, North Carolina, and Vermont, and are noteworthy because the grant highlight need for independent collection and verification of broadband data.
“All four recipients plan to collect data directly from broadband providers, each also described plans to collect or utilize data from other sources,” read the press release issued October 5 by Commerce Department’s NTIA.
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[private_Premium Content][private_Free Trial]The first four broadband data and mapping awards were also noteworthy in that the recipient have each chosen to conduct their broadband data-collection activities in-house.
The California Public Utilities Commission was awarded $1.8 million, the Indiana Office of Technology was awarded $1.3 million, the e-NC Authority (Rural Economic Development Center, Inc.) of North Carolina was awarded $1.6 million, and the Vermont Center for Geographic Information was awarded $1.2 million. In particular, the VCGI award is to “collect and verify the availability, speed, and location of broadband across the states. ”
The data will be collected twice a year from 2009 to 2011 with the first set of data available next month and the data must be presented “in a clear and accessible format to the public, government, and the research community.”
"Broadband will bring many benefits to the Nation, such as job creation and innovation, but these benefits have been delayed by the lack of comprehensive, reliable data on the availability of broadband service," Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling said. "This program addresses an important need and will provide a valuable tool in bringing broadband and jobs to more Americans."
The NTIA continued: “The [California Public Utilities Commission] is also awarded $500,000 for the cost of broadband planning activities in California over four years, bringing its grant award total to approximately $2.3 million. In addition, the e-NC Authority is awarded approximately $435,000 for the cost of broadband planning activities in North Carolina over five years, bringing its grant award total to over $2 million.”
The NTIA also noted that awardees were required to bring an at-least 20 percent match of non-federal funds toward project costs. ”While the BDIA mandates that each state may designate only one eligible entity to receive funds under the program, each state's applicant will be carefully evaluated and must meet the standards described in NTIA's Notice of Funds Availability for this program in order to receive funding,” the agency said.
In addition to the independent data collection requirement, NTIA also highlighted the fact that the four recipients “will use multiple verification methods, and each also plans to use independent verifiers to conduct data verification work” and that the recipients “demonstrated that the relevant state agencies are committed to the success of the project and plan to be actively engaged in its leadership.”
In discussing data-collection methodologies, the recipients plan to use “datasets that were developed for other purposes but are valuable for broadband mapping, including orthophotography, parcel maps, and E911 datasets.”
The broadband data portion of the federal stimulus program has been among the more contentious portions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While there has been strong support for such a map, the actual creation process for the creation of the map has been one filled with each stakeholder wanting the map to include different things and be created with various different levels of transparency.
In the end, the NTIA decided to allow each state to choose if they would like to develop the map in house or allow an external contractor to create the map. The data collected by the states under guidelines setup by NTIA will be compiled into a single national map.
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