Demanding Broadband: Local Policy and the National Broadband Map
Charles H. Kaylor
Temple University--Spatial Analysis Lab
April 2, 2012
Among the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was $350 million devoted to the National Broadband Map and Plan. Although it seems prima facie obvious that a coherent policy to fill the gaps in access to high speed Internet would require a thorough analysis of where and how service is provided, the map has been enormously controversial, first for its imposition of minimal disclosure of heretofore closely-guarded secrets of private sector providers, then for its manifold shortcomings as a tool for policy and planning. These issues notwithstanding, the National Broadband Map does not at all venture into the arena of broadband adoption, which is itself of paramount importance for the more densely settle portions of the nation. This paper assesses the status of our present spatial understanding of broadband. It provides an assessment of the weaknesses and strengths of the National Broadband Map, highlighting its potential to inform local and regional decision-making. Beyond this, it questions the fundamental lacuna in national policy: a coherent analysis of who is adopting, where, and how. To do so, this paper examines the government's national spatial broadband adoption data collection and public dissemination effort. While the Federal Communications Commission conducts an extensive tract-level census of broadband providers via the FCC's form 477 every 6 months, very little of this data is ever made public. The authors then compare this with several alternative efforts at assessing local adoption, focusing primarily on demand-side studies in major U.S. cities (e.g., Philadelphia and the District of Columbia). The authors argue that, the present state of broadband expansion has a dual character: on one hand, the National Broadband Map addresses the problem of supply, which is still acutely felt in rural America. On the other hand, in most urban areas, persistent concentrations of poverty threaten to create a potentially larger policy concern: large portions of the populations for whom adoption is either irrelevant or out of reach, which threatens to entrench a technological underclass. Understanding the dimensions of this policy challenge requires a more refined assessment of the dimensions and patterns of adoption, an issue largely ignored by the National Broadband Map.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 1
Keywords: broadband, ARRA, broadband stimulus, BTOP, FCC, NTIA, broadband mapping, GIS, broadband planning,working papers series
Date posted: April 3, 2012
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