Monday, July 13, 2009

California issues updated "unclassified" state broadband availability maps

The California Public Utilities Commission has published updated versions of maps of broadband availability in the Golden State that were issued in early 2008 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Broadband Task Force.

There are two versions of the maps: "classified" versions accessible only to approved providers and "unclassified" maps that are publicly available and published online as .pdf files. The secret maps -- classified at the insistence of incumbent providers who don't want the public or potential competitors knowing exactly what they are providing (and more importantly, not providing) and where -- purportedly reveal street address level broadband availability organized by census block. The unclassified public maps by comparison show only the view from 60,000 feet and are sanitized via rasterization and the omission of key highway and road identifiers and town markers. This renders them nearly inscrutable to outsiders and consumers -- some of whom complain the maps exaggerate the boundaries of where broadband availabilty truly exists.

Notably, the two federal agencies administering the distribution of $7.2 billion of grant and loan subsidies to faciltiate the build out of broadband telecommunications infrastrucutre -- the Dept. of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) -- issued rules last week for the first round of funding requiring proposed projects include service area maps delineated by census block and posted on the federal government's Broadband Stimulus Portal.

When compared with the California maps, these newly created maps of proposed project areas may show where the broadband black holes really exist in a way the California maps do not.

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