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Broadband Mapping & Data

Local Communities Are Essential to Improving Internet Mapping, Say Broadband Breakfast Experts

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February 3, 2021 – Gathering data at the community level is key to improving broadband mapping, industry experts said during Wednesday’s Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on the need for state and local engagement to improve broadband mapping.

“Accurate data is important to mapping.” said Peggy Schaffer, executive director at ConnectMaine,  a state office facilitating broadband access. “Information is power.”

“Right now, that power is in the hands of [internet service providers, and] we need to bring that power to communities,” she said. Communities want to know where they are not getting broadband service, but they currently don’t have access to that data.

CostQuest’s Mike Wilson agreed: “Community level planning is critical and is the best practice,” he said. “If you want a sustainable mapping program that leads to closing the digital divide, it has to be at the community level,” he said.

“I am more convinced than ever about the importance and central role that states need to play in broadband mapping,” said Vetro Fiber’s Brian Mefford, “Every state should have the opportunity to play that central role, so as more stimulus comes down the pipe and more legislation is considered, that’s going to be key to the success of these efforts,” he said.

Wilson also talked about CostQuest’s broadband fabric that enables location-specific information about service-level availability.

Precise location data allows government funding to go to actual unserved areas, not areas that might be unserved because assessments were based on old or inaccurate data, he said.

In August 2019 the Federal Communications Commission began its Digital Opportunity Data Collection program, improving on the Form 477 that the FCC continues to use to gather broadband data since it began collecting data around 2000, shortly after doing so was called for by the Telecom Act of 1996.

The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act in March 2020 largely ratified the approach that the FCC was taking, and the December 2020 appropriations package unlocked funding to effectively implement the new mapping system.

The FCC finalized the rules for the system on January 19. It is aimed at improving data gathering and moving toward a new fabric-like system.

Local level officials must be involved in data-gathering and community partnerships

The panelists on the Broadband Breakfast program agreed that data gathering is most effective at the local level with communities and partnerships.

Schaffer discussed partnerships with other communities and institutions such as healthcare or economic development organizations. Maine, Washington, and other states, are also “crowdsourcing” broadband connection data in order to measure connection speeds, and to verify who is and who is not connected.

Crowdsourcing requires lots of partners and outreach in order to build a large, effective dataset that accurately maps broadband access, she said.

The panel also touched upon the FCC’s definitional threshold for broadband: 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download /3 Mbps upload. Wilson said states have used different thresholds: 25/25, 100/100, or even all the way up to 1000/1000 Mbps, or a symmetrical Gigabit connection.

“States are starting to critically look at that already before the feds do,” Wilson said. “I see that in the immediate horizon that will be adjusted,” he said.

Time to pay as much attention to upspeed as to downspeed

For her part, Schaffer emphasized the importance of upload speed, and not just download speed. First, it’s how technology is driven. Second, “Upspeed is how we as citizens who use this service provide information back in, how we talk to the world,” she said.

“Downspeed is consumer, upspeed is creation,” she said. “If we connect everyone in this country and all they do is watch Netflix with it, we have not done the economic purpose that broadband can do.” People should be “part of the conversation,” and not just consumers.

States’ and local community’s participation in broadband speed thresholds can allay the perceived concern of some that federal funding goes to “overbuild” in areas in which some measure of broadband is already available, Mefford said.

Wilson concluded the panel by highlighting the work that has been done to improve broadband mapping. We are on the cusp, he said, of “getting broadband mapping and data to the point where it is more closely reflecting the experience of consumers on the ground.”

This discussion is just one of a five-part event series, “Tools for Broadband: Preparing for Success, on Broadband Breakfast Live Online.

“Tools for Broadband Deployment” is sponsored by:


Render Networks


ADTRAN

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Reporter Tim White studied communication and political science at the University of Utah, and previously worked on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress. A native of Salt Lake City, he escapes to the Pacific Northwest as often as he can. He is passionate about politics, Star Wars, and breakfast cereal.

Broadband Mapping & Data

Ookla Fourth Quarter Report Puts T-Mobile as Fastest, Most Consistent Wireless Provider

T-Mobile ranks fastest mobile provider, improving on third quarter performance.

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T-Mobile president Mike Sievert

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2022 — Metrics company Ookla reported Tuesday that speed test data from the fourth quarter of last year show that T-Mobile was the fastest and most consistent mobile operator, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max is the top device in terms of popularity and download speeds, and Google is the top manufacturer when it comes to download and upload speeds.

The latest report, for the months of October, November and December, showed T-Mobile’s median download speed was 90.65 Megabits per second, while runner-up AT&T had a median download speed of 49.25 Mbps and Verizon came in at 44.67 Mbps. The District of Columbia had the fastest median mobile download speeds in the United States with 100.38 Mbps, with T-Mobile being the fastest mobile provider in 42 states.

T-Mobile also had a significant jump in terms of 5G performance, said the Tuesday report. In the third quarter, T-Mobile’s median 5G download speed was 135.27 Mbps, while Tuesday’s report shows their median 5G download speed was 187.12. Verizon came second with a median speed of 78.2 Mbps and AT&T was third with a median speed of 68.82 Mbps.

In the United States, the fastest popular device manufacturer was Google. Google’s median download speed was 60.82 Mbps, Samsung’s was 52.80, and Apple’s was 52.76.

However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the most popular and fastest device overall, with a median download speed of 90.58 Mbps and the iPhone 13 Pro following closely behind at 89.61 Mbps.

In the report, only Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile were mentioned as internet providers, and Apple, Google, and Samsung were the only device manufacturers included.

Each month, Ookla collects data from Speedtest users to report the internet speed at their location, and the data from those tests are used to generate their quarterly reports.

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Broadband Mapping

NTIA National Broadband Availability Map Expands to New States and Territories

Nevada, Louisiana, American Samoa and Puerto Rico will join.

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WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Tuesday it will expand its National Broadband Availability Map to include Nevada, Louisiana, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

The NBAM, which now includes 38 states and two U.S. territories, is a geographic information system platform that allows for visualization and analysis of federal, state and commercially available data on broadband availability.

It is designed to better inform administrators’ broadband projects and funding decisions in their states.

Additionally, it includes five federal agencies: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In June, the NTIA also released to the public a digital map that includes key indicators of broadband needs across the U.S. This “Indicators of Broadband Need” tool “is the first interactive, public map designed to bring multiple third-party data sources together to help” public understanding of the digital divide and broadband affordability issues, the NTIA said.

The map shows overall great need for broadband access in the rural western U.S. compared to areas of the country such as the northeast and many parts of the Midwest.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Broadband Experts Agree on Multiple Datasets, Disagree on Level of Granularity for Maps

Two broadband experts on a Broadband Breakfast live event discussed data collection and specificity of mapping.

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Drew Clark (top-left), Scott Wallsten (top-right), Jim Stegeman (bottom-left), Bill Price (bottom-right) from live event December 22.

WASHINGTON, December 27, 2021 – Some experts are concerned that there is an overemphasis on the granularity of maps needed to rollout broadband in the country.

“I do not believe that trying to map every structure in the U.S. is the way to go,” said Scott Wallsten, president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, during a Broadband Live Online event on December 22.

“Broadband maps cannot actually be fixed once and for all,” Wallsten said. “The information is always changing and the sorts of things we want to know are also changing.”

Several federal departments and agencies have broadband mapping tools, with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration working on improving the accuracy and the specificity of their maps.

Wallsten recommended that data commissioners make very clear what questions are being asked and draw data from several datasets.

Wallsten argued that if the only question at hand is an attempt to determine the general trends of broadband adoption, existing FCC maps are likely already sufficient. “You can learn a lot more from data that is already available than most people realize.”

If the question relates to which specific regions and areas need investment, then more data is needed.

“We learn more by combining data in different ways,” he said. “I do not think we are doing enough of that.” Wallsten said that to get a fuller picture and understand trends and needs, stakeholders need to draw from many different sources.

“Do not expect any dataset – or any combination of data sets – to have all the answers,” Wallsten said. “We do not want to create a situation where we tell governments there is one master dataset.”

President of CostQuest Associates Jim Stegeman echo Wallsten’s statements on using multiple different datasets “to really zero in on the issues.”

But he dissented slightly from Wallsten on granularity. Stegeman stated that CostQuest had a proof of concept demonstrating address level service reporting to provide data on a location basis rather than the broader census block basis and the “one served, all served” mentality that the FCC maps have historically been dependent on.

According to CostQuest’s proof of concept, Stegeman said that future maps could have access to the “location of every broadband serviceable point in the country – the latitude and longitude of the building – to where we believe broadband service needs to be delivered.”

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the December 22, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 12 Noon ET — When Will the Broadband Maps Get Fixed?

Now that the Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021 has been passed, states can expect to see the $65 billion for broadband infrastructure dripped out over the coming years. But to effectively allocate their resources, states must understand the full picture and be able to discern underserved communities from served communities and identify those communities that are completely unserved. During this event, we will discuss the current state of broadband mapping across the country and what needs to be done to improve it and ensure that this opportunity for historic infrastructure funding is not squandered.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Scott Wallsten, President, Technology Policy Institute
  • James Stegeman, President/CEO, CostQuest Associates
  • Bill Price, Vice President, Government Solutions, LightBox
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Scott Wallsten is President and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute and also a senior fellow at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. He is an economist with expertise in industrial organization and public policy, and his research focuses on competition, regulation, telecommunications, the economics of digitization, and technology policy. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University.

James Stegeman, as President/CEO of CostQuest Associates, has been a major force behind the development of the latest generation economic cost models used by cable, telco, tower and wireless companies and state and government agencies in support of broadband deployment analysis. He led the design, coding and implementation of the Broadband Analysis Model (“BAM”) that was used by the FCC to develop and support the economic findings in the National Broadband Plan. He led the design, coding and implementation of the Connect America Cost Model (“CAM”, “CACM”, “A-CAM”) that is being used by the FCC to disburse more than $3 billion annually to fund broadband deployment and to set the reserve price in the RDOF and CAF II auctions. And most recently, he is leading the internal development of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, which was awarded to CostQuest by the FCC.  This national fabric will provide the underlying locational dataset for the upcoming FCC Broadband Data Collection effort and resulting national broadband map.

Bill Price, Vice President of Government Solutions, is responsible for LightBox broadband data and mapping solutions for government. Bill has more than 40 years in telecommunications and technology services development and operations. His track record includes delivering the Georgia statewide location level broadband map, the first fiber metropolitan area network in the U.S., and launching BellSouth’s internet service. LightBox combines proven, leading GIS and big data technology to transform how decisions are made in broadband infrastructure planning and investment.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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