Meeting the deadline set by Congress to create and launch such a resource, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today unveiled the National Broadband Map, a public, searchable, nationwide map of broadband Internet availability.
The National Broadband Map actually is a multitude of maps based on a Word Press database containing approximately 25 million records. Five years in the making, the map project cost around $200 million. It was in the works before the Obama administration created the broadband stimulus program, but the map project benefited from some of the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus awards.
The National Broadband Map, available at www.broadbandmap.gov, was created by NTIA in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), using data that each state, territory and the District of Columbia collected from broadband providers or other data sources.
"We think it’s an unprecedented event in government data sets," said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling in a media briefing announcing the map. During the call, leaders of the FCC and NTIA focused on how the data will help the government to address Internet availability disparities; but the map could prove valuable to broadband technologists and business leaders as well.
One of the map permutations is "Type of Technology Available." The technologies in the database include cable modem-DOCSIS 3.0; cable modem-other; fiber to the end user; terrestrial fixed wireless-unlicensed; terrestrial fixed wireless-licensed; terrestrial mobile wireless; asymmetric XDSL; and symmetric XDSL.
This could be useful information for companies as they determine where to locate a business or for operators gathering competitive intelligence. The data can be manipulated in a variety of ways on the government Web site, but it also can be downloaded for more customized sorting and searching.
For consumers, the map can help them determine the providers in their area and the available broadband speeds – anywhere from 768 Kbps to 1 Gbps. Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank said on the media call, "I said to my husband, ‘As soon as this is up, we’re going to go look and see what the services are in our neighborhood.’"
Although providers and their advertised broadband speeds are shown on the map, the pricing of services is not. Said Strickling, "At any given location, a provider may offer a variety of pricing plans. We felt overall it would be more misleading to provide pricing data. However, we have provided click-throughs so a consumer shopping can click and take a look at the various pricing plans."
The map will be updated twice a year, and the government is soliciting "crowdsource" feedback to make the data as accurate as possible. Users can comment on the map via an "engage" link on the Web site.?
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted, "Our broadband networks – wired and wireless – are indispensable infrastructure. Broadband is as vital today as electricity was in the 20th century…(the map) is part of our efforts to make government more open and participatory. The tool is built 100 percent on open-source software. All APIs are being made available."