Results tagged “broadband map”

February 23, 2011 12:16 PM

The Broadband Map . . . What an App!

When Congress allocated $350 million for a National Broadband Map ("the Map"),  as part of the Recovery Act (at p.14) I was skeptical, but optimistic.  After seeing the Map, when it was unveiled last Thursday (well, I really couldn't get in until Friday--there were that many hits), I think it actually exceeded my expectations. 

Larry Strickling, the head of NTIA, and Anne Neville, who headed the NTIA mapping team, (along with many others at NTIA and the states) are to be warmly congratulated for their efforts.  Is the Map perfect now?  Of course not; but the Map is a work in progress, and it's only going to get better and more useful.  

If you need some facts, here they are.  The actual cost of the Map turns out to be $200 million over 5 years.  The Map will be updated every 6 months, based on information from awardees of the NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunity Program ("BTOP") grants, state information (the NTIA website also lists state broadband maps), and based on crowd-sourced information obtained from the public to update the Map (and correct inaccuracies). 

I'm confident that the Map will pay for itself in multiples, and--in any event--will come nowhere near being the second most expensive visual effect in history. (The first, of course, being the special effects needed to make it look like Chuck Norris lost a fight with Bruce Lee in "Way of the Dragon.")

So how is the Map going to pay for itself?  Well, aside from the obvious--which is in providing consumers information that allows them to learn about broadband availability/alternatives in their area--I see at least two big ways that the Map can increase consumer welfare: 1) by increasing broadband penetration, and 2) saving Americans money by imposing efficiency on the Universal Service Fund ("USF").

Increasing Broadband Penetration

The Map--because it is designed to be dynamic--serves as an excellent "ice breaker" between sources of supply and demand, and state mapping agencies/business development authorities.  Even now, middle mile and long-haul carriers can superimpose their own network maps on the Map and see areas that may be demand-starved.  Customers, and potential customers, can then approach state development agencies to inform them of latent demand--or even "invisible" demand.  

An example of invisible demand might be an area that is rich in cheap power, but broadband-poor.  Prior to the information-sharing that the Map will stimulate, it is possible that no one would have ever located data centers in that area.  But, with the potential for broadband, and high capacity backhaul, data centers, remote healthcare, and wireless broadband providers might become more interested.  One heretofore "invisible" anchor-tenant could be the catalyst to bring broadband to currently unserved areas. Similarly, state development agencies--with their own versions of the Map--are well situated to be a natural conduit for information between communities with latent/invisible demand and proximate middle mile/last mile carriers. Thus, the Map--for some areas--will become a catalyst in creating new broadband facilities/markets.

USF Reform

This is a really big "if", but if the FCC really wanted to get serious about bringing broadband to unserved areas in the cheapest way possible, the Map provides an excellent vehicle for reducing payments to areas where at least 2 providers already provide broadband.  You see, the Map has a feature that allows viewers to track broadband availability by USF study area.  Using this information, the FCC could better target funds to truly unserved areas.  

The FCC could also eliminate existing inefficiencies by using the Map to either eliminating funding in multiple-provider areas, or by combining multiple-provider study areas with adjacent study areas that are unserved, or served by only 1 provider, to maximize the value of "reverse auctions."  In this manner, "reverse auctions" would have meaning, because multiple bidders would be assured and consumers would get new infrastructure at the most efficient cost.  

Bottom Line: Consumers should ultimately reap plenty of rewards from the Map.  As an information-sharing device, the Map will stimulate markets in ways that cannot be predicted or quantified right now. Moreover, the Map could be used to promote efficient USF reform, but, unfortunately, the Map cannot overcome political cowardice--so maybe we shouldn't hold our breath on this one.   

July 13, 2009 9:25 PM

Broadband Mapping NOFA: "NOFA" Enough, But Not "BADFA" A First Try

After reading the NTIA Broadband Mapping Notice of Funding Availability ("NOFA"), it's clear that the "treasure map" I was hoping for isn't going to materialize.  However, I'm not destroyed, because--relative to my expectations, the NTIA--with one really weird exception, and another, more minor, nit--didn't do so bad at all, especially for having a limited amount of time and no confirmed leader until less than a week prior to the NOFA being released.

OK, to get us all on the same page, Congress told the NTIA to come up with a broadband inventory map when it passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act ("Recovery Act") earlier this year.  Prior to passage of the Recovery Act, though, Congress also instructed the Commerce Department (NTIA) to collect very similar data, and instructed other federal agencies to collect different, relevant broadband-related data, in the 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act ("BDIA").  

Both laws, essentially, seek the same thing--a static inventory of broadband availability in America.  The NOFA requires periodic updates, so "static" isn't an entirely fair characterization, but it's not that far away.  "Backward-looking" is probably a more accurate characterization.  The ultimate "purpose" of the map can be as obvious (and useful) as just letting policymakers know who still needs access to broadband service.  Another good use of the map/data is to provide feedback on whether policies are working.  More importantly, though, the mapping data can be even more helpful to broadband penetration and deployment if it helps to eliminate information gaps/inefficiencies that prevent forces of supply and demand from working as they should.  A broadband map that helped to facilitate this intermediation function would easily pay for the $350 million allocated for the map. 


Continue reading Broadband Mapping NOFA: "NOFA" Enough, But Not "BADFA" A First Try
April 8, 2009 2:25 AM

Broadband Map? Makes Me Want to Take a Nap . . . Instead, Let's Make It a Treasure Map!

It's been said that, "[a] movie scene depicting Chuck Norris losing a fight with Bruce Lee was the product of history's most expensive visual effect. When adjusted for inflation, the effect cost more than the Gross National Product of Paraguay."  If this is true, and I'm not saying it isn't, history's second most expensive visual effect might be the $350 million broadband map that the NTIA is charged with creating under the ARRA See p. 14.  In all the discussions of how to spend the broadband stimulus money, very little attention has been devoted to what is potentially "history's second most expensive visual effect."  I'm not saying the broadband map is destined to earn this title, but the NTIA and the FCC owe the broadband map some thoughtful, up-front attention--even before money starts to be distributed--in order to maximize the broadband stimulus grants.  However, it's easy for me to say the map deserves some serious attention, but the real question here is how do you make a map produce $350 million in value to American taxpayers?


Continue reading Broadband Map? Makes Me Want to Take a Nap . . . Instead, Let's Make It a Treasure Map!