News Analysis: The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, working with the FCC and using some federal stimulus money, developed a map that shows the extent of broadband adoption in the U.S. It's too bad that California and the Midwest are missing from the map.
As you learn to expect when a segment of the U.S.
government produces something that involves technology more advanced than a
light bulb and also is visible if not tangible, we got a lot of hoopla about
the National Broadband Map.
This is a service that is supposed to let you search for
broadband in your area, and have it tell you what broadband providers you have
a choice of. You can also view a map of the continental United
States with blue splotches indicating
broadband availability. You can see this map by clicking on a button on the
main page or by going directly to
the map page.
By using this map to examine broadband deployment in the United
States, I learned a number of critical
facts. First, according to the address search, I have broadband available from
two providers at speeds of 50M to 100M bps, as of last June. I also learned
that California apparently has no
broadband at all. In fact, according to the map, California
exists only in theory and most of the Midwest and South
Central United States is vacant of everything including state borders.
The fact that there is no broadband in California at all
may come as a surprise to a lot of people in the San Francisco area, the nexus
of the nation's Internet infrastructure, who think they have broadband,
but it might also explain a lot. For example, it's a common belief in the
country's heartland that people on the West Coast are out of touch with
the rest of America.
But since the map indicates that California
and the Midwest are both bereft of broadband of any
sort, perhaps they're both out of touch with the rest of the United
Regardless of whether California
is out of touch, I do know that it has broadband, at least in the places I've
visited in the Bay Area. I haven't been to the rest of California
in recent memory, so I can't speak for that, but the problem is obviously that
the multimillion-dollar National Broadband Map is broken. It simply does not
function as it should.
Worse, when you type in your address to find out about
your broadband, the results aren't necessarily reliable. You know that 50M- to
100M-bps broadband I allegedly have here in suburban Washington,
D.C.? It's pure fantasy. Even with the most
expensive broadband available to consumers in this area the best you can do is
20M bps, and that's only when the bits are headed downhill and they have a
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.