Michael Jones: Maps and Data Analysis are the Keys to Effectively Targeting Broadband Subsidies

The key to states’ success on infrastructure builds lies in the analysis of the data they collect.

Michael Jones: Maps and Data Analysis are the Keys to Effectively Targeting Broadband Subsidies
The author of this Expert Opinion is Michael Jones, director of communications at the Technology Policy Institute

Maps and data analysis are keys to ensuring that the broadband subsidies included in the bipartisan infrastructure law are effective. The Federal Communications Commission is working to improve its data’s accuracy, and as reported by Broadband Breakfast, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo believes new and improved maps could be released this summer.

But new and better data alone is not sufficient. States need a set of tools that will help them analyze many datasets to make educated decisions about how to use the funds that National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate to them.

Technology Policy Institute started its own broadband mapping initiative to make that possible. TPI Broadband’s nationwide map and state mapping series combine information from nine sources and filter their results across 24 geographic areas, ranging from Census blocks to entire states. Our cloud-based platform does more than simply display maps.

The software can generate graphs and scatter plots that give users a visual representation of trends and correlations. It also allows users to combine datasets and harness the power of regression analysis to explore the relationships between them.

The Broadband Connectivity Index combines adoption, availability and other data to create scores that can help policymakers identify areas that need focus, including whether those areas may need special data collection efforts.

The platform includes even more datasets and tools that we have not yet included on the public-facing user interface. We can answer questions like who appears to be benefiting from the affordability programs or the relationship between E-Rate funds and school performance, to name a few.

Additionally, we keep the data up to date. Our maps are designed to update nearly instantaneously when new datasets come out.

Not only does this ensure that our data is always fresh, but also helps our platform complement the many data collection efforts out there. For example, we hope to incorporate the FCC’s new Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric data once it is released.

In a recent Broadband Breakfast Expert Opinion column, former FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said, “Universal broadband has not been achieved, in part, because previous grant funding has often been misspent.” The funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to substantially bridge the digital divide, and it is imperative that states are able to take full advantage.

By giving decision-makers the resources they need to develop cost-effective solutions geared towards truly underserved areas in their communities, TPI’s broadband maps can play a pivotal role in ensuring this funding connects as many Americas as possible.

Michael Jones, Jr., is the director of communications at the Technology Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation. The Technology Policy Institute’s mission is to advance knowledge and inform policymakers by producing independent, rigorous research and by sponsoring educational programs and conferences on major issues affecting information technology and communications policy.This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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