What is BroadbandCensus.com?
BroadbandCensus.com is a new Web service that provides you, the consumer, with FREE information about broadband availability, competition, speeds and services in your local area. Type in your ZIP code, and immediately see the number of high-speed Internet companies that serve your ZIP code, and which of them BroadbandCensus.com has been able to identify.
You’ll see how other users rate their carriers, and actual download and upload speeds. You can see consumer comments in your area, and add your own. Or, you can look at all comments, ratings and speed tests for a particular company.
For my ZIP code, the site says, “The government says you have a total of 15 broadband services. The broadband census has found 1 broadband service(s).” What’s the reason for the discrepancy?
BroadbandCensus.com exists to collect and publish better data about broadband. The Federal Communications Commission collects the names of broadband carriers by ZIP code. The agency discloses the number of carriers, but refuses to release their names. BroadbandCensus.com is an attempt to go around the government and the carriers and use “crowdsourcing” to collect data directly from you, the consumer.
Why won’t the FCC release the data?
The FCC claims that disclosing the ZIP codes in which a company provides broadband service would be “likely to cause competitive harm” to the broadband providers. They say this information is proprietary and should not be released.
You can’t be serious! Are you?
Unfortunately, that’s the position your federal government has taken. An effort to obtain this information from the FCC under the Freedom of Information Act was unsuccessful. A federal district court judge sided with the government.
Don’t the carriers need to tell consumers where they operate in order to sell service?
Precisely. BroadbandCensus.com believes that data about the availability and competition of broadband service is already public information. Encourage your broadband provider to make this public information more readily available.
Can’t you collect local broadband data from other sources?
That’s what BroadbandCensus.com is doing. We collect information from multiple sources: state regulatory agencies, company Web sites and-most importantly-from you, the consumer and Internet user, through “crowdsourcing.”
My carrier isn’t listed in the Broadband Census. What should I do?
E-mail the carrier name to us at email@example.com. We’ll add the carrier to the Broadband Census as soon as we can verify that the carrier has a Web site which states that they offer broadband service.
Why do I get an error when I run your speed test?
Our beta-version speed test uses NDT (or Network Diagnostic Tool), which is open-source software created by Internet2. (Internet2 is a super-high-speed Internet backbone linking universities and other educational institutions.) The NDT speed test uses the Java programming language, so you’ll need to make sure that Java is installed in your Web browser. (Most browsers include Java.) Also, the speed test only allows one user to connect at a single time. We are working on expanding the number of server computers so that we can serve more Internet users simultaneously.
Why are you doing BroadbandCensus.com?
BroadbandCensus.com believes that America needs better information about broadband. The country currently ranks 15th in a global ranking of industrialized nations that have broadband. Most experts agree that better information about where high-speed Internet service is available-and where it isn’t-is the first step to improving. Knowing the names, speeds and prices of local broadband offers is crucial to ensuring that our broadband marketplace is transparent and competitive.
What do consumers get from BroadbandCensus.com?
We offer FREE information about broadband availability, competition, speeds and services to the public. By taking the Broadband Census and running our beta speed test, you will help improve America’s understanding of broadband. The site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License, which means that anyone may reproduce or retransmit the content on BroadbandCensus.com, so long as they attribute it to BroadbandCensus.com, and do so for non-commercial purposes.
Are you working with other broadband researchers?
Yes. Broadband Census has signed a contract with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, one of the most prestigious research studying broadband and the Internet. Our data will be incorporated into Pew’s 2008 annual broadband report. We are working with other academic researchers, too. Because we use a Creative Commons License, academic researchers may freely use our content, so long as they attribute it to BroadbandCensus.com.
Shouldn’t the government be doing this? Isn’t there some law to conduct a Broadband Census?
Some countries, such as Ireland, already release information about local broadband availability and competition on a public Web site. Whether the U.S. government should or shouldn’t map out broadband, it isn’t doing so. Under the “Broadband Census of America Act,” H.R. 3919, the Commerce Department would be required to create a publicly-available map of broadband deployment. The map would feature not only broadband availability, but “each commercial provider or public provider of broadband service capability.” H.R. 3919 passed the House of Representatives on November 13, 2007, but is currently pending in the Senate.
How do you differ from others Web sites offering speed tests or broadband mapping?
The focus of BroadbandCensus.com is on providing FREE information about broadband availability, competition, speeds and prices. Other Web sites only map out broadband availability, or only offer an unrecorded single-user speed test. BroadbandCensus.com provides a comprehensive and public record about all facets of end-user broadband data.
Are you non-profit?
Broadband Census LLC is organized as a Limited Liability Company in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which was formed to operate the BroadbandCensus.com Web service. While we believe that BroadbandCensus.com is serving an important public purpose, we hope to be self-sustaining by generating revenue.
How is BroadbandCensus.com funded?
BroadbandCensus.com has a contract with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and has received funding from the Benton Foundation. See our supporters page.
Are there other supporters?
The eCorridors Program at Virginia Tech has provided encouragement and technical advice in taking the Broadband Census to a national audience, Internet2 has provided technical direction about deploying a speed test and the Network Policy Council of EDUCAUSE has provided technical advice and feedback. See our supporters page.
Do you take advertising?
BroadbandCensus.com runs GoogleAds image and text advertisements.
Who runs BroadbandCensus.com?
Drew Clark is the Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com, and is the principal member of Broadband Census LLC, which was formed to launch this Web service. See the other members of the team. Drew is one of the toughest and most comprehensive technology journalists in Washington. He has more than 20 years of experience as reporter, editor and project manager for a variety of Web sites, magazines and newspapers. A more detailed bio can be found at DrewClark.com/about.
What’s next for the Broadband Census?
Broadband Census is working to take the Web site to the next level by adding detailed coverage maps, by allowing users to add to and edit the profiles about broadband carriers, and by spreading the word about why Internet users should come take the Broadband Census and speed test.
How can I help?
There are three simple things you can do to help:
- Take the Broadband Census!BroadbandCensus.com relies on users to help us improve. Take the Broadband Census and speed test!
- Help Publicize BroadbandCensus.comIf you are a blogger or have a company Web site, grab our button and put it on your site.
- Get InvolvedBroadbandCensus.com is a work-in-progress. We welcome your expertise. Please join our technical, research or outreach committees.
Native Americans Need Control Over Mapping Data, Conference Hears
Indigenous connectivity advocates said Native Americans should have control over their mapping data.
October 18, 2021––Advocates for greater broadband access in Native American lands discussed the need for greater control over broadband mapping to address broadband challenges amongst Native American populations.
Traci Morris and H. Rose Trostle from the American Indian Policy Institute said Wednesday at the Indigenous Connectivity Summit that there is now an intense focus on “broadband inequality and digital equity” as it relates to Tribal nations.
Morris and Trostle’s indigenous-led office at Arizona State University analyzes policy recommendations on key issues in Indian country, and they’re working on a paper that would overview Indian country in the U.S., federal broadband maps, and a consideration of indigenous “data sovereignty”––the argument that native lands should have more control over their data mapping to improve broadband mapping in tribal lands.
The mapping undertaking is particularly important to Trostle. “Indigenous peoples have a long tradition of mapping,” they said. “This needs to be recognized when considering how we can improve modern maps of key services, including electricity, water, and broadband.”
Trostle underscored the gap in adequate broadband mapping between tribal lands and the rest of the United States. “Indian country is the canary in the coal mine of broadband mapping,” Trostle said. “Federal data has problems for not just tribal lands, but also non-tribal rural and urban areas.” In Trostle’s view, part of the problem is “a lack of people that understand broadband or tribal lands.” Trostle said their office’s study on the inadequacy of broadband mapping on tribal lands would be available “within the next year.”
The Indigenous Connectivity Summit also featured a discussion about indigenous data sovereignty.
Jeff Doctor, impact strategist at Animikii Indigenous Tech, argued that the native American individual’s connection with their larger collective cultural group makes their data more personal in nature and should be better protected.
In tribal lands, political belonging has an influence on their community and culture and “has a part in how we think of collective rights,” he said. Doctor described how native American lands have been disadvantaged by the U.S. government.
“When you look at how colonialism operates, it’s very extractive” he said. He urged summit attendees to think about how to build rights-based technology. He suggested taking a community-centralized approach to data rights and molding tech data policy around universal human rights.
The fifth annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit held virtual sessions from October 12 to October 15, 2021. They met each year to discuss how Tribal nations can have affordable, quality, and sustainable internet access, and talk about how connectivity supports social and economic development.
Service Providers Should Partner with Organizations to Comprehend Broadband Data
For companies to have successful builds, they need to ensure they know how to interpret their data.
HOUSTON, October 4, 2021 — Broadband service providers should work with organizations to understand their own broadband data sets and maps, according to experts.
Speaking at the Broadband Communities Summit last week, Biarri Networks CEO Paul Sulisz explained that even if someone has data, that does not mean that they will have the ability to act on it or follow through on their plans. Ensuring that data sets are interoperable is crucial, he said.
“It is important to understand and agree on how to aggregate data,” Sulisz said. “There are so many people that start on the journey [to build out broadband], go down the wrong path, and then need a rescue mission.”
Broadband experts agree that without the ability to integrate broadband data sets and maps, many broadband expansion efforts will hardly be able to get off the ground.
Sulisz noted that many of these wrong paths are chosen because people are working with data that is incomplete or that they do not understand, and that is why it is so important to work with organizations that are capable of parsing through and comprehending data.
“If [companies] do not do the planning up front with people who have a good track record—it is going to be tough,” Sulisz continued. “Talk to people who have a good track record—go do your homework.”
Gerry Lawlor, the CEO of Open5G, said it is important for those working on broadband projects to understand how to define demand and how to secure long-term investment to meet that demand. He said that often companies that just put their heads down and think that hard work will pull an effort through are the same companies that need to be rescued.
Both men emphasized the need for companies to be prepared for accelerated growth, explaining that once one neighborhood gets faster service, the neighbors will want it, and so on. They said that it is crucial for data logged in potentially disparate systems to communicate effectively to sustain scalable growth.
As it stands now, many companies are being left to their own devices until new Federal Communications Commission mapping data is released sometime next year, though these efforts have inspired less confidence in the wake of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – following the award process, several companies have had to reevaluate their builds since many of the supposedly unserved areas they bid on were already served.
Sustainability and Scalability are Crucial For State Broadband Projects, Say State Experts
Partnerships for broadband need to emphasize community engagement to improve connectivity
September 21, 2021—Public-private partnerships for broadband need to emphasize community engagement to improve connectivity in regions that need help, state broadband officials said Tuesday.
Speaking at a “Connecting the Heartland Conference Series,” BroadbandOhio CEO Peter Voderberg highlighted the state’s focus on ensuring student broadband connectivity. He highlighted the $50 million BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant, for which more than 900 school districts have applied.
Funds could be allocated to subsidize the cost of internet for students without broadband, hotspot service plans, providing improved public Wi-Fi infrastructure, or otherwise improving existing connectivity, he said. Collaborative efforts between school districts and ISPs have been able to bring the overall cost of broadband down for consumers.
Voderberg also described a $250 million Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant to bring internet to areas with connections slower that 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
This program would subsidize private efforts by compensating ISPs for the difference between the cost of the project and the price it would take to make the effort profitable for them.
Illinois’ early efforts at broadband progress
Matt Schmit, director of the Illinois Broadband Office, pointed to “the three legs of the stool” for broadband expansion: Access, adoption, and utilization.
Illinois’ plans and programs were designed with this three-pronged approach in mind, he said, crediting Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker for establishing programs prioritizing broadband two years before the rest of the country is now doing.
Two key aspects of Illinois’ efforts are technology neutrality and a focus on scalability. “[We believe in focusing on] investing in an area and making sure that we have the kind of investment, service, and infrastructure that is going to serve [a] community well into the years ahead.”
In terms of prioritizing which communities and regions get service, Illinois considers any area with services less than 25 x 3 Mbps to be unserved, much like the federal government’s current broadband standard.
However, unlike the federal government, Illinois also has a category for what it considers to be underserved, which is any area below 100 x 20 mpbs. He called the state’s approach a compromise between advocates that have called for a broadband standard of 100 x 100 Mbps or even 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps). On the other hand, he said, are voices that argue against “future-proof” technologies, saying that gigabit speeds are gratuitous.
The most challenging aspect of providing service, however, is simply identifying which areas are served, underserved, or lacking coverage completely, he said.
“We don’t necessarily trust the maps that are out there—even our own,” he said, adding that mapping “is the start of the conversation, not the end of the conversation.”
It will only be through conversations with applicants, communities, and providers that enough data is collected to sufficiently serve the state, “We are investing in a community or investing in an area for the long term,” Schmit continued, “Because what we’re going to invest in is fully scalable for the needs, not only today, but for tomorrow.”
The event was hosted by National Urban League, agribusiness Land O’Lakes, Inc., and Heartland Forward, a think tank focused on rural economic development.
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