6 cool things learned from the National Broadband Map

Now that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has launched its National Broadband Map, it's time to comb through the data to see what we can learn about broadband in the United States.

After exploring the site for a few hours, I came away with the following six factoids about broadband in America that I found particularly intriguing.  The map and the data used to create it were funded by the economic stimulus package passed in early 2009.  In all, creating and updating the map is slated to cost $220 million over a five-year period and the map is due to be updated two times a year.

BROADBAND BACKGROUND: U.S. broadband map shows large uncovered areas

So with that out of the way, here are six interesting things I learned from the National Broadband Map:

One: There is a large gap between connection speeds for small businesses and for medium and large businesses.  Although you'd expect larger companies to have access to faster web services, the gap between small businesses and medium-to-large businesses is still striking.  According to the broadband map, small businesses have a median download speed of 3.9Mbps versus an average download speed of 8.6Mbps for medium-the-large businesses.  What's more, the highest download speed recorded for a small business was 9.6Mbps, which is only 1Mbps more than the median download speed for medium-to-big businesses.

Two: A dearth of broadband providers in the Northeast.  Those of us who live in New England may pride ourselves in having some of the fastest connection speeds in the country, but we don't do so well when it comes to the number of in-state providers.  The map's data show that none of the six New England states have more than 20 providers that offer advertised download speeds of more than 3Mbps.  Connecticut, which has exactly 20 different providers offering speeds of 3Mbps or more, has the most providers in the region, while New Hampshire ranks last, with just 11 providers offering speeds of 3Mbps or higher.  The state with the most broadband providers is Iowa (114 providers offering 3Mbps downloads) while Indiana and Hawaii are tied for the fewest number of broadband providers with three each.

Three: DSL is still the most available wireline technology.  Yes, we hear a lot about fiber-to-the-home buildouts, but DSL is still alive and kicking as the broadband technology most widely available across the United States.  DSL may not be as fast as cable connections, but roughly 87% of the population in the United States has access to it, while 82% of the U.S. has access to cable.  Not many technologies come close to DSL and cable as far as availability goes, as fiber-to-the-home is only available for around 14% of the population.

Four: Wireless looks like the future for rural broadband.  Although there are gaps between urban and rural areas in terms of availability for all times of broadband technologies, the smallest gap exists for wireless technologies.  This gap figures to get even smaller over the next few years as stimulus funds will help build WiMAX networks in rural areas of 22 different states and rural carriers will partner with the big incumbents to bring LTE to areas that aren't currently covered.  In addition to services offered on licensed spectrum, we will also see a proliferation of wireless broadband services that utilize the unlicensed "white spaces" spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission opened up for use in 2008.

Five: New York is the king of the 100Mbps download.  There are only eight counties in the United States in which 99% of the population has access to broadband services that offer advertised download speeds of 100Mbps.  Five of those counties (Nassau, Rockland, Westchester, Suffolk and Bronx) are in New York, while the remaining ones reside in California (San Francisco and Alameda) and New Jersey (Passaic).

Six: Wyoming is not a good place for high-speed Internet.  Sparsely-populated, mountainous terrains aren't typically easy to build high-powered telecommunications networks in and Wyoming is no exception.  Only 53.5% of the population in Wyoming has access to a broadband service that offers advertised speeds of 3Mbps for downloads and 0.7Mbps for uploads.  The good news, however, is that Wyoming is an outlier as 3Mbps-down-0.7Mbps-up connections are available to more than 70% of the population in all the other 49 states, and to more than 90% of the population in 42 other states.  These connection speeds are available to 100% of residents in only the District of Columbia, Delaware and New Jersey.

So those were six interesting factoids I found.  Try going to the Broadband Map website and find some more for yourself!

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

This story, "6 cool things learned from the National Broadband Map" was originally published by Network World.


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