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 map and database will allow users to search more than 25 million records for broadband availability, what type of broadband is available, the maximum advertised speeds available, and the names of the service providers. According to the NTIA, the data will be updated every six months by the fifty-six different state organizations paid to collect the information.
The NTIA collaborated with the FCC to extract the data, which revealed that 5 to 10 percent of Americans cannot access Internet speeds that would allow incredibly basic Web functions, including downloading images or video chat capability. Only 36 percent of Americans have access to wireless Internet, most using “3G” speeds. The 2010 US Census revealed a shocking amount of disparity when it comes to Internet accessibility, and it’s become a government focus to amend the situation. Just last year, the NTIA determined that 40 percent of Americans went without home broadband connections.
While some of us have been left in the lurch, the map did prove that more Americans have access to the Internet in general than last year – nearly 5 percent more. And you can research all the improvements for yourself with the interactive map. Users aren’t limited to vague stats about broadband accessibility: It allows you to customize your search. You can browse details like broadband options and specific street addresses. According to the Commerce Department, the map will be updated twice a year to include connectivity improvements.
The National Broadband Map, which was mandated as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and cost about $200 million to create, gives legislators and regulators data that could be used to determine how to best expand broadband penetration in the U.S. It also documents where existing broadband ISPs aren’t providing affordable broadband Internet access in rural and low-income areas and gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data that could be used in an upcoming rulemaking proceeding involving whether the Universal Service Fund should be used to subsidize broadband adoption. A week earlier, President Barack Obama unveiled an $18 billion initiative to provide Internet connectivity to 98 percent of the nation.