USA: National Broadband Map Going Live Today

Infokito - The Commerce Department on Thursday unveiled a national broadband inventory map, which will allow the public to see where high-speed Internet is available throughout the country.

Also today, the agency released stats from an Internet Usage Survey of 54,000 households, which found that 68 percent of households in the U.S. have broadband access, up from 63.5 percent last year.

The National Broadband Map will go live later today at It's a searchable database with more than 25 million records that show where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used to provide the service, the maximum advertised speeds of the service, and the names of the service providers.

Users can search by address, view data on a map, or use other interactive tools to compare broadband across various geographies, such as states, counties or congressional districts.

Commerce officials said the information can help businesses decide if they want to move to a certain location, based on broadband availability. It might also help spur new business; Commerce said it will release the APIs associated with the maps, so innovators can create apps or services around the data.

Funds for map were provided through the 2009 Recovery Act, President Obama's economic stimulus package. That legislation provided $350 million for the creation of a national broadband inventory map. Of that, NTIA doled out $293 million in grants to all 50 states, the territories, and Washington, D.C., which was used to collect the data for the existing map and will be used over the next five years for updates. Another $20 million was provided to the FCC, which used most of it on contractors who built the map.

All told, the five-year cost of the map is about $200 million, said Larry Strickling, assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within Commerce.

"The National Broadband Map shows there are still too many people and community institutions lacking the level of broadband service needed to fully participate in the Internet economy. We are pleased to see the increase in broadband adoption last year, particularly in light of the difficult economic environment, but a digital divide remains," Strickling said in a statement.

The map shows that 5-10 percent of Americans lack broadband access at speeds that support a basic set of applications. Another 36 percent lack access to wireless service. Community anchor institutions like schools and libraries are also "largely underserved," the data finds. Two-thirds of surveyed schools subscribe to speeds lower than 25 Mbps and only 4 percent of libraries subsribe to speeds greater than 25 Mbps.

"The release of the National Broadband Map, the first of its kind in the nation, is a significant milestone," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "This cutting-edge tool will continue to evolve with the help of new data and user feedback. It will provide consumers, companies and policymakers with a wealth of information about broadband availability, speeds, competition and technology, and help Americans make better informed choices about their broadband services."

The FCC last year released its national broadband plan, which lays out what it thinks needs to be done to provide broadband to the entire country. Part of the problem of executing such a plan, however, is the fact that no one really knew where broadband was lacking. The broadband map is an effort to close that gap.

source: pcmag

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