US broadband map shows large uncovered areas

The NTIA and FCC release an interactive national broadband map, the first from the U.S. government

Large swaths of the western and southern U.S. do not have access to wired or fixed wireless broadband, according to a new national broadband map released by two U.S. agencies Thursday.

The nation's first national broadband map shows that between 5 percent and 10 percent of the U.S. population lacks access to broadband that supports basic applications, including downloading Web pages, photos and video, said the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The NTIA released the map in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The broadband map was developed using open-source software such as the OpenGEO Suite and WordPress, and the agencies will make the map's APIs (application programming interfaces) available to all developers and entrepreneurs who want to offer services tied to the map, NTIA and FCC officials said. The agencies will update the data in the map every six months, and the map includes a feature where users can report information about broadband providers in their area.

The map will help broadband providers and government agencies target areas that need broadband service, and help consumers compare service and speed, said Julius Genachowski, the FCC's chairman. The first release of the map is "just the beginning," he said during a press conference.

"Millions of Americans live in areas where they can't get broadband even if they wanted because the infrastructure simply isn't there," he added.

The NTIA also announced new broadband adoption information Thursday. About 68.2 percent of U.S. residents subscribe to broadband now, compared to 63.5 percent a year ago, said Rebecca Blank, acting deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTIA's parent agency.

The growth is "good news, but when you dig deeper into the data, it's clear that we still have work to do," Blank said.

White households have an adoption rate about 20 percent higher than African-American or Hispanic households, she said. The adoption rate in rural areas is about 10 percent behind urban areas, she added.

The broadband map also shows that schools and libraries have slower broadband speeds than they need, added Larry Strickling, NTIA's administrator. Schools with 1,000 students should have broadband speeds of 50 to 100 Mbps, but two-thirds of schools in the U.S. have speeds lower than 25 Mbps, he said. Only 4 percent of libraries have speeds above 25 Mbps, he added.

Some critics of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress in early 2009, said the bill should not have authorized the NTIA and the U.S. Rural Utilities Service to award about US$7 billion in broadband deployment grants and loans before the map was completed. The legislation required the two agencies to award the money by late 2010, while the deadline for the map to be available was Thursday.

Strickling said he suspects the broadband map will confirm the choices the NTIA made, although the agency focused more on building middle-mile access and bringing broadband to community institutions than on the residential broadband service the map shows.

The map allows users to search by address. The map shows that the area around the FCC's headquarters in southwest Washington, D.C., has 14 wired or wireless broadband providers offering download speeds of 768 Kbps or faster, but only one provider offering service of 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps and none offering faster speeds.

Fessenden, North Dakota, a farming community with about 600 residents, has two wired and two mobile providers, although one wired provider offers service of 25 to 50 Mbps, according to the map. Riverside, a town with about 60 residents in south central Wyoming, has one broadband provider offering speeds of 1.5 to 3 Mbps.

The map project, which will cost about $200 million over five years, includes money for states to update their broadband data. Data from about 1,600 broadband providers is included in the map, officials said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government use of ITtelecommunicationU.S. Department of CommerceU.S. Rural Utilities ServiceJulius GenachowskiLarry StricklingU.S. Federal Communications CommissiongovernmentlegislationbroadbandRebecca BlankU.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?