30 May 2014

National Broadband Map

The Federal Communication Commission's National Broadband Map is a highly useful tool to understand the current availability of high speed internet throughout the United States. This map and its related source data is made available as part of an FCC public outreach program promoting high speed internet availability.

Available data sets include:
  • Maximum Advertised Speed.
  • Type of Available Technology.
  • Providers Available in a Given Area.
  • Service Footprint per Provider.
  • Broadband Availability in Relation to Demographics.
Take some time to play with these maps. They have sliders which allow you adjust the parameters of the data displayed. Here are some of the interesting maps:

Blue areas have a maximum available speed of 10 Mbps or less.

Peach areas are served exclusively by Comcast

Red areas have ZERO high speed providers.

Upon casual examination, it appears to be the case that areas with high population density are served by one or two high speed internet providers. For most people, the local cable company is the only provider available, and in many populated areas that cable company is Comcast. No matter the provider, available speeds are dreadfully slow. A large portion of those with high speed access can obtain no more than 10 Mbps downlink. Note that speed is the maximum advertised speed, meaning that actual speeds may be (and usually are) much lower.

Rural residents have things even worse. The vast majority of land area in the US has no high speed internet available. Residents in these areas are effectively cut off from the benefits of internet access. I have family in rural areas of California that are stuck with dial up internet or expensive and still slow satellite connections. 

My takeaway is that we need faster connections available to more of the country. Both quality and quantity has to be built out. It's time for another Interstate-style public works project where we lay dark fiber from coast to coast and contract with private firms to light it up. Symmetrical Gigabit speeds are a reasonable goal to start with. Let's get to it!