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Update: U.S. broadband map shows large uncovered areas

Grant Gross | Feb. 17, 2011
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.

FRAMINGHAM 17 FEBRUARY 2011 -

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% and 10% 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% of U.S. residents subscribe to broadband now, compared to 63.5% 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% higher than African-American or Hispanic households, she said. The adoption rate in rural areas is about 10% 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% 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 $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.

 

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