Report Credits National Broadband Map With Better Targeting of Expansion Funds

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By Paul Barbagallo  

 

The National Broadband Map continues to be an effective “decision tree” for ensuring that more Americans have access to high-speed internet service, according to a new report by the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The map, first unveiled last February by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has aided both the federal government and the private sector in targeting funding for broadband expansion projects, especially in rural areas, the report said.

“The use of the National Broadband Map, which makes it possible to visualize where there is availability and where there is none, is not simply a formal nod to a data source as authoritative. It is a real, measurable metric pinned to a constant set of decisions in the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars, resulting in additional people having broadband service,” said the report, released at an Oct. 15 event hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Most recently, the searchable, nationwide map has helped the FCC determine where in the country new Universal Service Fund dollars should be directed, the report noted.

Regulators Overcame Obstacles.

“It stands as proof that careful planning and savvy management can permit the achievement of big goals with limited resources and limited time,” it added. “Despite the extensive regulatory burdens that they faced in creating the National Broadband Map, the NTIA and the FCC completed the project on time, and the project has already had tangible and identifiable impacts on policy.”

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Pub. Law No. 111-05) $350 million was set aside to be used to implement the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which had established, but did not fund, a state broadband data and development grant program through the NTIA. The program called for awarding matching grants to states to identify and track the availability and adoption of broadband services within each state--to then be compiled by the NTIA in a National Broadband Map.

In all, the map features 25 million searchable records and data from 1,600 unique broadband internet services providers, all collected by the states. It displays the geographic areas where broadband service is available; the technology used to provide the service; the speeds of the service; and the broadband internet service available at anchor institutions.

The map cost about $200 million over five years. Most of that money supported data collections.


For the report, which was co-authored by Michael Byrne, geographic information officer for the FCC, visit http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/National%20Broadband%20Map%20Wilson%20Center%20Case%20Study.pdf.