Map shows technology divideAs many as one in 10 Americans can’t get internet connections that are fast enough for common online activities such as watching video or teleconferencing, and two thirds of schools have broadband connections that are too slow to meet their needs.
By: The Associated Press, Lake County News Chronicle
As many as one in 10 Americans can’t get internet connections that are fast enough for common online activities such as watching video or teleconferencing, and two thirds of schools have broadband connections that are too slow to meet their needs. Those are some of the conclusions from the Commerce Department as it unveiled last week a detailed, interactive online map showing what types of high-speed internet connections are available – or missing – in every last corner of the country.
The national broadband map, which was mandated by the 2009 economic stimulus bill, went live Thursday at www.broadbandmap.gov with both lofty aspirations and utilitarian goals. Government officials hope the map will help guide policymakers, researchers, public interest groups, and telecommunications companies as they seek to bridge the digital divide in even the most remote reaches of the U.S. They also hope the map will serve as a valuable tool for consumers who just want to find out what local broadband options are available.
Lake County continues to fill a gap on the North Shore with its fiber-to-home project while the Northeast Service Cooperative expects to start this spring with its regional project to link institutions such as schools and hospitals with high-speed internet.
Consumers can type an address into the map and pull up a list of the local broadband providers, along with details about the types of high-speed connections they offer – such as cable modem service, fiber-optic links, or wireless access – and just how fast those connections are.
Most connections in Lake County are through telephone or cable wires and via satellite. The map includes crowd-sourcing features that ask consumers to contribute their own knowledge to the database. They can, for instance, confirm that they are getting the internet speeds the map says they should be getting or let the map know if a local broadband provider is missing from the neighborhood list.
In addition, the map allows users to run all sorts of comparisons – ranking counties across a state by the fastest broadband speeds or allowing consumers to look up where their own county ranks nationally, for instance. And it can produce snapshots of an entire community that could be useful for local economic developers or real estate agents – showing what percent of a county has access to particular types of broadband technologies or how many schools and hospitals in a community have ultra-fast links. It also allows users to compare broadband data with local demographics such as income and poverty levels.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission released a national broadband plan that set a goal of connecting 100 million U.S. households to broadband connections of 100 megabits per second – at least 20 times faster than many home connections now – by 2020.
The map comes too late to help guide Commerce Department and Agriculture Department officials who have awarded more than $7 billion in stimulus money to pay for high-speed networks across the country over the past two years, including $66 million to Lake County.
According to a survey of 54,000 households conducted by the Census Bureau in October, 68 percent of U.S. households subscribe to broadband.
- Between 5 and 10 percent of Americans lack access to broadband access that is fast enough to handle downloads of some Web pages, photos and video or simple video conferencing services
- Two-thirds of schools surveyed have Internet connections that are slower than 25 megabits per second – well below the 50- to 100-megabit connections that state education technology directors say are needed to serve 1,000 students
- Only 4 percent of libraries have connection speeds that are faster than 25 megabits
- Only 36 percent of Americans have access to wireless connections that are fast enough to be considered fourth generation, with download speeds of at least 6 megabits per second, although 95 percent of Americans have access to third-generation wireless service.