The National Broadband Maps were unveiled yesterday. I attended a “blogger briefing” webinar on the new maps. Ironically, the site server was so overwhelmed we couldn’t see all of the features. But I’m going to take that as good news; it means a lot of people were interested enough to check it out.
I think most folks will be interested in the interactive maps. You can look up your address and see the providers in your area (wired and wireless), see the average speeds advertised and maps of the area.
You can use the maps to take a look at access at a community level – down to the census block. The maps help to make information very easy to take in. Connected Nation has played a big role in developing the maps, having them work on the Minnesota maps has given us a sneak preview of what to expect.
I think there’s potential in the ranking features too. A good way to get started is to try to create the most complex report you can – that will help you figure out what all of the search options are. (Maybe I’m slow but I didn’t quite get the depth of options when I ran my first few overly simple reports.) You can look at speeds, technology (cable, wireless, DSL FTTH…), number of providers and various demographic characteristics. And you can cross tabulate results.
There are some popular reports to check out, including Broadband Availability in Urban vs. Rural Areas and Areas with No Broadband Availability. My only issue with these pre-packaged reports is that broadband is defined my 768 kbps, which is how the NTIA has defined broadband. But in my opinion, that’s too slow to be of use.
There was a peculiar comment made during the blogger webinar. I had asked about the definition of broadband and one of the speakers pointed out that while 768 k may seem slow in the cities, that for rural areas without access, 768 k probably seems OK.
That’s part of the reason I don’t like the slower definition. If 768 k is too slow in the city, it’s too slow throughout the country. If anything, bandwidth is even more important in areas that are geographically set apart. A remote doctor’s visit is a convenience to me in St Paul; it can be a life saver in a more remote area. When the government approves of the slower definition of broadband or in the case of the National Broadband Plan offers two tiers of access, it makes it OK for everyone to set up dual expectations.