National Broadband Map Crippled by Data Flaws

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 States.

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 tailwind.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...