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GCN : October 2012
44 GCN OCTOBER 2012 • GCN.COM STAN BAROUH GCN AWARDS NATIONAL BROADBAND MAP NTIA/FCC In January 2009 President Obama estab- lished an agenda for universal broadband: a plan to make high-speed Internet service available to all Americans. To support the effort, analysts needed a tool to help iden- tify areas of the country that were under- served --- or left out altogether. Congress asked the Federal Communi- cations Commission and the National Tele- communications and Information Admin- istration (NTIA) to develop a broadband map that would let policy analysts and oth- er stakeholders make informed, data-driv- en, broadband funding decisions. It would be designed to also help inform consumers about broadband in their locations. Working with Computech Inc., a soft- ware development firm in Bethesda, Md., the FCC and NTIA designed a public-facing, searchable and interactive broadband map. The entire project was built with open pro- tocols on open source software and fully transparent data, said Mike Byrne, geo- graphic information officer at the FCC. "We wanted to make sure that anyone in- terested in broadband or big data ---wheth- er a large corporation, an individual re- searcher or a kid in a garage --- would have the same access and opportunity to build off of what we did," he said. "And they can, without any barriers, license agreements or restrictions whether for data or software." Containing data on broadband provid- ers, technologies and speed availability based on tens of millions of records collect- ed from 1,700 providers across the country, the map went live in February 2011. Since the launch, there have been more than 3 million page views and 600,000 unique visitors. Anne Neville, director of the state broad- band initiative for NTIA, said that biggest challenge was the project's timeline. "We built the entire project from scratch," she said. "We had to integrate the data collect- ed by 56 partners across the country and then develop a visual interface--the map-- to meet the needs of many different users. After developing program guidelines and awarding grants and contracts, we effec- tively had a little over a year to collect over 25 million records and publish them in a searchable and interactive way." The biggest benefit of the map is that is a one-stop shop on broadband access for consumers, businesses and policymakers, Neville said. "Broadband drives economic growth and innovation, so data on America's broadband capabilities are of increasing importance. And the National Broadband Map is the larg- est dataset of its kind," she said. "Everyone starts at our homepage and from there con- sumers can look for what's available to them in their neighborhood while policymak- ers can view the maps or the Analyze sec- tion to better understand how their regions compare to others. We need to understand where sufficient broadband exists in order to address where it is lacking." • --- Richard W. Walker The National Broadband Map supports the drive to extend high-speed Internet service to everyone A digital atlas of broadband resources From left: Don Harris, Xiaoming Qin, Dorota Wilke, Ivan Djordjevic, Paul Salasznyk, Eric Spry, Santosh Moghulla, Juan Marin, Nathaniel Guieb, Michael Byrne ORGANIZATION: Federal Com- munications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration PROJECT: National Broadband Map CHALLENGE: To build a digital map showing broadband avail- ability and related data in the U.S., including a relational database housing hundreds of millions records of broadband data. SOLUTION: A public-facing, searchable and interactive broad- band map entirely built with open protocols on open source soft- ware and fully transparent data. AT A GLANCE