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NTIA, FCC Release National Broadband Map and Digital Nation Report

in Broadband Data/Broadband Mapping/Broadband's Impact/FCC/Mobile Broadband/North America/NTIA/Recovery Act/Wireless by

Editor's Note: The following story has been corrected; see below.

WASHINGTON February 17, 2011- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission unveiled the National Broadband Map along with an update to the Digital Nation report this morning. The map is available at

The map is the result of over 2 years of work. Of the $350 million over five years allocated by the federal government for broadband mapping and planning, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling estimated that approximately $200 million was being spent on broadband mapping. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and 5 territories provided the NTIA with data. The map brings together 25 million pieces of data to provide consumers, policy makers and business with an accurate picture of broadband deployment and availability. Over 1600 unique internet service providers were identified.

“The National Broadband Map shows there are still too many people and community institutions lacking the level of broadband service needed to fully participate in the Internet economy.” said NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling. “Through NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, digital literacy activities, and other initiatives, including the tools we are releasing today, the Obama Administration is working to address these challenges.”

Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank echoed the Obama administration’s commitment to broadband, saying, "Access to broadband has been a priority since the beginning. President Obama even mentioned it in his inauguration addresses and again during the most recent State of the Union.”

Preliminary findings from the data collected during the mapping show that 5 - 10 percent of Americans do not have access to the speeds necessary to use basic applications such as photo sharing, online video or web surfing.

NTIA also found that only 36 percent of Americans have access to mobile broadband of 6 mbps or greater - the current base speed of 4G. In comparison, 95 percent have access to 3G but the speeds on that service frequently dip below 1Mbps.

The map will allow users to search the data using a variety of parameters including speed, technology, and location.

The location data presented is not only the state and county level but also at the census block and metropolitan statistical area, making this the most detailed map ever released by the government.

The speed metric used by the map comes from the advertised speeds that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provided. The FCC has collected data on actual speeds, but NTIA choose not to integrate this with the map.  According to Anne Neville, Director of NTIA State Broadband Data and Development Program, the data that the FCC collected was not expansive enough to add to the map, but she hoped to be able to add actual speed data to the map in the future, as more information is collected.

Pricing data is another one of the pieces missing from the map.

“We were unable to include price data due to its changing nature," said Strickling during a press conference hours before the map's release Thursday afternoon.  "ISPs often offer promotional pricing along with bundled pricing which makes it difficult to determine the actual price of just the broadband offering.  Since the site is only updated twice a year it would not be able to reflect the current price of services and this could confuse consumers so we felt it best not to include it.”

The map does, however, provide consumers with direct links to ISPs to find pricing along with the ability to sign up for service.

States will receive $176 million in additional funding to validate and update the data over the next five years. The map will also be updated twice a year with information received by the states and from public input. Users are able to comment directly on the site to ensure the accuracy of the information.

The website also includes analysis tools that allow users to rank data based upon their choice of inputs in addition to basic mapping functionality.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted that the map was created using open-source software and that its data will be available to all users. The use of open-source software will allow the NTIA and FCC to update the information quickly and allow for the integration of new tools more easily.

“We hope that using open standards and API’s software makers will use the data to create new applications to help consumers and business,” Genachowski said. “Broadband is going to be as transformative as electricity was in the 20th century”

The Digital Nation report uses data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2010 using the Current Population Survey (CPS). The most promising finding from the report was that home broadband access grew to 68 percent of households. Last year only 63.5 percent had access.

“Even though the nation has had a tough economic year it was gratifying to see the increase in home adoption of broadband,” Strickling noted.

The report continues to show that though the digital divide is still present, it is shrinking. The divide amongst rural and urban has decreased; currently 70 percent of urban households have access while only 60 percent of rural household have access.

Nationwide the largest deterrence to adoption continues to be a perceived lack of need.  Nearly half of respondents to the CPS claimed that they did not need broadband, while 25 percent claimed it was too expensive. In rural areas, lack of availability is still a major factor.

A previous version of the reporting that the map was the result of $350 million in government funding, and did not note Strickling's estimate of $200 million, over five years, for mapping.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act


  1. Putting broadband in every structure in the United States allows the government to monitor every household in the US. If you allow them to, they will. But….Don’t worry “We are from the Government, we are here to help!”.

  2. Its an unfunded mandate on ISPs to report this data to the FCC and to state broadband mapping agencies. The Federal Map data is collected via FCC Form 477, which the FCC estimates will only take the submitter about 237 hours to complete. It must be submitted 2x per year.

    The information gathered is based on “Census Tract” outline maps with locations that were established in Year 2000. There are no clear deliniations of these bountries for determining which tract a location may fall – especially those that fall along the edge of a Census Tract boundary. The guide uses the Federal Finance Institution Examination Council Geocoding System to match physical address with census tract, however the program does not have new roads and addresses created over the last several years.

    Finally, data many (lots and lots) of small WISP serving rural America are not included in the map either because they did not file a report or their data was just not included in the Broadband Map.

    If this data in the map was 60% accurate I would be surprised. That’s pretty poor performace for 2 years of “effort” and $350 Million dollars.

    I doubt that developers of this map made any effort to actually identify who are the actual broadband providers and what do they provide. The Broadband Mappers just hoped every provider would jump at the chance to spend 200+ hours filling out a report for which they received no compensation and give away valuable, and confidential company information.

    When you look up the definition of “Good enough for Government Work” in the dictionary, this map probably appears.

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