States Mapping Broadband Coverage

E-newsletter Issue #49 | June 24, 2010

As the U.S. moves toward a national broadband map, several states are undertaking mapping projects thanks to grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A national map will help states determine where broadband Internet actually exists and where it doesn’t, helping to expand access to areas that currently lack it.

Representatives from two states—Colorado and South Dakota—detailed their projects during a seminar of the National Association of State Technology Directors last week.

The Recovery Act allocated $350 million for developing and maintaining a national broadband inventory map. That funding goes toward a grant program established by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to help states where broadband coverage exists and gather the pieces for the national broadband map.

South Dakota, which received $1.4 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities and $500,000 for broadband planning activities, contracted with BroadMap LLC to assist with its data collection efforts, said Jim Edman, the state’s broadband mapping manager. He emphasized that utilizing a geographic information system solution to collect data is “essential to the project’s success," because it compiles data from multiple sources and helps identify unserved areas.

The collection process compiled broadband availability and adoption rates—the percentage of households with broadband service—from 53 Internet service providers in the state.

South Dakota’s next steps involve analyzing the collected data for accuracy. “Verifying is an important part of the project,” said Edman. Along with compiling a final statewide report on broadband, Edman said the state hopes to build a government broadband site to “educate the public to the value of broadband” and the resulting economic benefits.

Colorado received $1.6 million for two years of broadband data collection and mapping and $500,000 for five-year planning activities.

Diane Simmons, program manager for the Colorado Broadband Data and Development program under the governor’s Office of Information Technology, said the state “leveraged lessons learned from the predecessor Connect Colorado project” to coordinate project stakeholders. The state contracted with Critigen and BroadMap to assist with the mapping efforts. Colorado will analyze data collected from up to 135 different Internet service providers in the state.

Simmons also said educating communities is a vital part of the broadband planning process. Rather than just delivering money to communities to assist with long-term broadband access efforts, Colorado must “educate, train and empower local communities to change their environment” with the benefits of broadband access associated with health care, education, public safety, economic development and labor, she said.

Both states are working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on compliance requirements. All state broadband mapping grant recipients must submit their collected data to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The administration and the Federal Communications Commission will develop and maintain the national broadband map, to be published by Feb. 17, 2011.

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