Because my internship with Connected Nation starts next week, much of the information in this blog post will come from books, prior research, and news articles. With that said, today I’m going to be exploring how broadband availability is mapped and why some of these maps can be faulty.
The Federal Communications Commissions’ (FCC) broadband map has continually proven to be faulty. One reason for this is the use of census blocks, a geographic region used by the US Census. The problem with census blocks is that if one home in that block can get access to broadband, then the entire region is considered covered, even if there are homes without internet for miles around. The maps also depict when internet speed is at its highest, which doesn’t provide an accurate representation of how internet speed works, it tends to fluctuate. The top map is the FCC broadband map for Brooklyn and below is a map from Connected Nation which provides how accurate the data from the FCC is.
The book Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age by Brad Smith and Carol Anne Browne documents how the people in Republic, Washington felt about their broadband access in the chapter “Rural Broadband: The Electricity of the Twenty-first Century.” When the authors arrange a meeting with some of the members of the town, they talk about their frustrations, one man said “Almost no one around here has broadband,” “it was unanimous around the table: The vast majority of Ferry County didn’t have reliable high-speed broadband access. ‘Tell that to the FCC,” someone scoffed (Smith and Browne 153).
Luckily, Microsoft acknowledged these problems in 2017 with their launch of the Microsoft Rural Airband initiative. Microsoft pledged that they would bring broadband coverage to two millions Americans in rural areas by July 4th, 2022. The initiative also called for a change in national policies to make broadband more accessible.
Connected Nation: https://connectednation.org/form-477-data-collection/
“Broadband Mapping in the United States”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadband_mapping_in_the_United_States
FCC Broadband Map: https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/#/
Cnet “Millions of Americans can’t get broadband because of a faulty FCC map. There’s a fix”: https://www.cnet.com/features/millions-of-americans-cant-get-broadband-because-of-a-faulty-fcc-map-theres-a-fix/
Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age by Brad Smith and Carol Anne Browne