WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 - As a part of an effort to make a comprehensive, national map, states are mapping broadband coverage and options available in their states.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires the National Telecommunications and Information Association to have the national map of broadband coverage publicly available by February 2011. This initiative has spurred billions of grant dollars to organizations mapping their states.
Connected Nation is the private-public partnership organization providing the mapping technology and guidance to the state efforts. Brian Mefford, CEO of Connected Nation, said, “In today’s digital world, being connected to the Internet is critical to preserving and improving lifestyle. Whether you live in a rural or an urban area, broadband gives you the opportunity to work from home, take online classes, and market your products – all of which have an impact on the local economy.”
Thus far, most of the states are being mapped through ESRI’s BroadbandStat mapping systems, which were funded by NTIA grants. Connect Michigan, Connect Minnesota, Connect Nevada, Connect South Carolina, Connect Texas, Connect Alaska, and Connect Iowa are the entities responsible for collecting their state’s data and producing the maps.
The Michigan Public Service Commission received $1.8 million in NTIA grants for its map. In the next 18 months, Michigan’s BroadbandStat map will be updated as additional data becomes available. Michigan’s map includes functions for users to identify population density in an area, identify households with no broadband access, link to news about broadband-related projects, and create charts and reports.
Connect Nevada was awarded $1.4 million in grant funds, and its map includes data about the availability, speed, location, and types of service from the state’s 35 broadband providers. In order to facilitate actual use of the map, Connect Nevada and Nevada’s Broadband Task Force conducted a live demonstration, which was also broadcast online. Leaders and experts in various fields, including agriculture, education, and healthcares, learned how they could customize the map’s functions to their specific needs.
Texas also held a web conference to demonstrate the use of its broadband map. The state has already utilized its map to identify and research the broadband adoption rate, which is only 62 percent in the state. After determining that the two major factors for non-adopters were a lack of relevance and costs, Connected Texas divided the state into geographic blocks, based upon information from the 138 providers in the state. Each block contains a number of households and connectivity data for each predefined area. By outlining specific areas, Connected Texas can better target the needs of each locality in the state.
Both Connect Minnesota and Connect South Carolina worked with the existing broadband providers in their states to identify areas without broadband. They also collected data from community anchor institutions, such as libraries and schools, which are potential access sites for broadband service.
Connected Iowa used its $2.2 million grant for an interactive state map that is currently seeking public feedback and participation. Based upon the feedback, Connected Iowa will conduct planning efforts for broadband expansion based upon the map’s information.
Iowa’s Governor Culver said, “Iowa has made great strides in spreading broadband across the state. In fact, 177 broadband providers offered data showing that the vast majority of our citizens can access broadband. However, only 66 percent of residents report using broadband at home. Through this effort we will continue the progress of getting our citizens online and accessing the unlimited benefits associated with broadband.”
In Alaska, Connected Alaska is working with the state’s Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to facilitate job creation through their $1.9 million NTIA grant. Since Alaska is more remote than most states, it is particularly interested in the opportunities that broadband can create for higher education purposes.
As Connected Nation works with states to complete an overall national map, citizens, broadband service providers, government organizations, and entrepreneurs are using the state maps to identify opportunity.