NTIA awards grants for national broadband map

Agency will spend up to $350 million to help states collect and verify data

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has awarded grants to four states to start collecting data to show how broadband access is distributed in those states. The data will be combined and displayed on a national broadband access map for policy planning, the agency announced.

Congress, through the economic stimulus law, authorized the NTIA to distribute as much as $350 million for broadband mapping projects.  The first round of grants channeled a total of $6.8 million to California, Indiana, North Carolina and Vermont.

The grants will pay for projects to collect, verify and display data on broadband availability, speed and location in each state, along with related activities. The data will be displayed on NTIA’s national broadband map, according to a news release of Oct. 5.

All states and territories were eligible to participate. The agency anticipates naming more awardees in the coming weeks.

The specific awards are:

  • California Public Utilities Commission $2.3 million.
  • Indiana Office of Technology, $1.3 million.
  • North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Inc., $2 million.
  • Vermont Center for Geographic Information, $1.2 million.

"The four award recipients submitted well-formed proposals that are both fiscally prudent and serve as a model for others," NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling said in the release.

He said several features made the award recipients’ applications stand out. For example, all are collecting data from other sources to augment what they get from broadband providers. The additional sources include wireless propagation models, speed tests, online and field surveys and drive testing.

The grant recipients also are drawing on additional mapping data, including orthophotography, parcel maps, and E911 datasets.

To verify the data, the recipients are using multiple verification methods and independent verifiers. The winners also described how they would collaborate with other state and local agencies and leverage their capabilities.

The NTIA’s mapping project coincides, in part, with the Federal Communication Commission’s development of a National Broadband Strategy due by February 2010, which also was a requirement of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Approximately three million to six million people have no access to basic broadband at speeds of 768 Kbps or less, the FCC reported Sept. 29. Providing universal access would cost $20 billion for speeds of 768 Kbps to 3 Mbps, or $350 billion for speeds of 100 Mbps or faster, the FCC said in a report.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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