The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted the other day that Minnesota cities are having trouble accessing the information they need to complete applications for broadband stimulus funding. (I noted it last week too.) Well I think there’s some good news for Minnesota.
There’s a recent FAQ on BroadbandUSA.gov on the ARRA requirements. Here’s what they say about mapping (on page 7 of the PDF):
2. How can an applicant determine which areas are unserved or underserved?
The exact methodology is up to the applicant, but the result should be to demonstrate that the proposed funded service area is eligible based on the appropriate definition. Applicants should aim to utilize state broadband mapping data if such data exists. Otherwise, a customer or market survey, statistical sampling, or other valid methodology will be necessary. Census block maps can be found at http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/descriptwindows/census_blockmaps.htm.
So what I see is that the Connect Minnesota maps should suffice. More good news on Friday from Connect Minnesota
Connect Minnesota will release a new suite of publicly available data tools to enhance Minnesota’s statewide broadband inventory map and provide GIS assistance for broadband stimulus applicants. Using ArcGIS technology in partnership with ESRI, Connect Minnesota has developed an interactive mapping feature for applicants to determine the number of households without broadband availability by Census Block. Additionally, a new map depicts rural and remote areas in relation to non-rural areas. These geographic data are required criteria for broadband infrastructure funds now available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The new interactive tool will allow the general public to click on any Census Block within those states to obtain the number of households served and unserved by a broadband provider within that Census Block. In addition, Connect Minnesota has posted online the downloadable datasets of broadband availability information by Census Block.
The map of rural and remote areas illustrates which geographic areas in Minnesota are considered rural, remote, and non-rural, according to definitions in the federal broadband stimulus rules released on July 1.
Such granular broadband availability and associated geographic information is required to complete the applications for broadband infrastructure grants and loans through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS.) The data tools will provide state leaders, community advocates, and providers in Minnesota with public access to this information, offering applicants a comprehensive, Census Block-level dataset of broadband availability and a better understanding of areas eligible for broadband stimulus funding.
Currently, approximately $7 billion in stimulus funds have been designated to help expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the United States. These funds are available through the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the RUS’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).