By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com
WASHINGTON, August 19 – BroadbandCensus.com is pleased to support One Web Day, and I am very happy to be an Ambassador for this effort.
Most Americans who have high-speed internet can’t imagine life without broadband. How could you connect to the Internet of today without it? In today’s world, broadband is as basic as running water and electricity. And yet the U.S. is falling behind globally.
As a technology reporter, I’ve been writing about the battles over broadband and the Internet for more than a decade here in Washington. Yet there is one fact about which nearly everyone seems to be in agreement: if America wants better broadband, America needs better broadband data.
That’s why I’ve recently started a new venture to collect this broadband data, and to make this data freely available for all on the Web at http://BroadbandCensus.com.
One Web Day presents an opportunity for all of us to take stock with the true state of broadband in this country. BroadbandCensus.com wants to work with each of you to help us “crowdsource” the data we need to get a better handle on availability, competition, speeds, prices, and quality of service of local broadband.
What is BroadbandCensus.com?
When an Internet user goes to the BroadbandCensus.com web site, he or she types in a ZIP code. By doing so, the consumer will find out how many broadband providers the FCC says are available. The consumer can compare that number to his or her own sense of the competitive landscape, as well as the names of the carriers published by BroadbandCensus.com.
The site then invites visitors to Take the Broadband Census! This is a short questionnaire, and it is followed by a free internet speed test. Each consumer that takes the census puts in their ZIP code, or their ZIP+4 code, selects their broadband carrier from a drop-down menu, and rates that company’s performance on a scale of one to five stars.
The consumer then has the opportunity to add their own comments about the carrier. They may then take a bandwidth speed test. Each of these steps adds data into BroadbandCensus.com. That means that the next visitor to the web site will be better informed about the availability, competition, speeds and customer service of their local broadband options. It also produces a free database of consumer data about more than 1,600 broadband carriers in the U.S.
How is BroadbandCensus.com Different?
There are other efforts out there to understand broadband data. The FCC requires every broadband carrier to provide information about the areas in the ZIP codes in which they offer service through something called the Form 477. The agency recently announced that it will now require that this data be collected by census tracts, which is a slightly smaller geographical unit. Unfortunately, the FCC refuses to share the information about WHO is providing service WHERE. That leaves it for me and you to piece together this puzzle through various sources of information on BroadbandCensus.com.
And there are other ventures out there, such as Connected Nation, Inc., which has teamed up with Bell and cable companies – and with the governments of Kentucky and other states – and which is mapping out statewide broadband availability.
BroadbandCensus.com seeks to identify the broadband carriers’ actual service areas. That way the carriers can be held accountable for the areas of town that they are serving, the speeds at which they are providing service, and – of course – the areas that they are not serving.
Not only is better broadband data important for policy-makers and for potential new market entrants, it is also vital for consumers. Particularly as carriers begin their efforts to meter out bandwidth in tiers, and to implement usage caps, the efforts of a consumer-focused service like BroadbandCensus.com are all the more critical.
Understanding Broadband Options on a State-by-State Basis
BraodbandCensus.com launched on January 31, 2008. We released the beta version of speed test (we use the open-source Network Diagnostic Tool of Internet2) soon afterwards, and have collected thousands of census results and speed queries.
Starting with a core group of supporters, including the Benton Foundation, the Network Policy Council of EDUCAUSE, Internet2, the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program, and now the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), BroadbandCensus.com has sought attention and publicity through word of mouth. We want as many people as possible to visit and use the site.
Now, we are taking the next step by conducting a Broadband Census of the States. We have begun a series of state-by-state articles profiling the broadband policies, broadband build-out and broadband data in each of the United States and its territories. As we’ve strengthened our knowledge of and ties to individual states, we’re tapping into a whole news source of broadband information. For example, because of the data available from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we’ve been able to identify each of the carriers offering service at the ZIP-code level in that state.
We will add new profiles to the collection between now and One Web Day. And on this day – September 22, 2008 – we plan to release the complete collection into the One Web Day ‘Time Capsule.’ Equally important, each of you will be able to add your research and knowledge about the state of broadband in the states through your comments and additions to each of these more than 50 profiles.
Using ‘One Web Week’ to Change the Debate over Broadband Data
The momentum that you have helped to create behind BroadbandCensus.com has put us at the center of the debate about internet data. We are building from this marvelous opportunity as we seek an open and public broadband census. On Monday, September 22, One Web Day will help draw further attention to these efforts. We aim to continue the effort throughout the week – until Friday, September 26 – and beyond.
Earlier this month we announced “Broadband Census for America,” a conference that will be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC, on September 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More details about the conference, the program committee and pricing is available here.
“Broadband Census for America” will be sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin’s Robert S. Strauss Center and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors program. A member of the Embassy of Ireland has confirmed his participation as a keynote speaker. He will inform an American audience of academics, state officials and telecom policy advocates about how the Irish have done their broadband census. Hint: see http://broadband.gov.ie. We urge you to consider attending.
I hope you are wondering what you can do to help this effort. If you are, we’ve got three requests for you on our “Get Involved” page:
- Take the Broadband Census and Speed Test
- Grab a Button for Your Blog
- Join one of BroadbandCensus.com’s Committees
Also, if you would like to blog about broadband, and about broadband data, on BroadbandCensus.com, please feel free to drop me an e-mail: drew at broadbandcensus.com. We’d be more than happy to include bloggers for BroadbandCensus.com!
We look forward to working with all of your in the run-up to One Web Week, and helping all of us to better understand the true state of broadband competition in our communities, our states, our country and our world.
Broadband Census in the States:
Broadband Census Resources:
- BroadbandCensus.com Launches Beta Version of Internet Speed Test (BroadbandCensus.com, March 3, 2008)
- Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about BroadbandCensus.com (BroadbandCensus.com, May 1, 2008)
- FCC Releases Broadband Data Order For Census-Tract Data (BroadbandCensus.com, June 15, 2008)
- BroadbandCensus.com Issues Statement Criticizing FCC Ruling on Broadband Data (Broadband Census.com, June 16, 2008)
- Will Bandwidth Demands ‘Break’ the Internet? Yea or Nay, We Need Independent Monitoring (BroadbandCensus.com, June 22, 2008)
- CWA Blog Claims Credit for FCC Data Order, But Ignores Local Company Data (BroadbandCensus.com, June 24, 2008)
- Broadband Internet Adoption Stalls, Regresses for Poor, Says Pew Report (BroadbandCensus.com, July 2, 2008)
- Want Better Broadband in America? Take the Broadband Census! (BroadbandCensus.com, July 15, 2008)
- CWA Wants Better Broadband Data, As Does Internet for Everyone (BroadbandCensus.com, July 17, 2008)
- Comments of BroadbandCensus.com in FCC Rulemaking on Broadband Data (BroadbandCensus.com, July 18, 2008)
- BroadbandCensus.com Partners With National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (BroadbandCensus.com, July 28, 2008)
- CWA Publishes State-by-State Download Speeds. How About Carrier-by-Carrier Speeds? (BroadbandCensus.com, August 15, 2008)
‘Broadband Census for America’ Conference:
One Web Day:
See this post on the One Web Day web site (August 19, 2008)