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5/30/2007
04:26 PM
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Open Source Mapping Database For Broadband Data Recommended

Contrary to the FCC's plans, the ITIF argues that a user-generated map would encourage public participation and generate precise local broadband data.

A user-generated mapping database for broadband would help the Federal Communications Commission make more informed policy decisions about broadband, according to the Information Technology Innovation Forum.

ITIF, a non-profit public technology policy think tank, has proposed improvements for collecting information on broadband speeds, use and deployment. The group -- which is funded by technology companies including Cisco, IBM and Microsoft -- suggested the database in response to an FCC plan to improve wireless broadband (PDF) and VoIP subscription data and evaluate advanced broadband deployment in the United States.

The FCC put out a call for comments on how it can deepen and refine its understanding of broadband availability and deployment, as well as the role wireless technologies can play in affording all Americans broadband Internet access.

"The Commission has consistently recognized the critical importance of broadband services to the nation's present and future prosperity and is committed to adopting policies to promote the development of broadband services, including broadband Internet access services," the FCC wrote in a proposed rule-making notice.

The ITIF argues that a user-generated map would encourage public participation and generate precise local broadband data. The group recommends the creation of a Web site where consumers can automatically test broadband connection speeds and enter that information with other details like their location and monthly costs.

"With the help of mapping technology such as that offered by Google Maps, the resulting proliferation of data points could very quickly yield a nationwide picture of local broadband deployment, prices and speeds," ITIF said through a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, the Federal Communication Commission's nationwide broadband data suffers from some well-documented limitations. The data available at the local level is insufficient for policymakers to make informed decisions, and there is evidence that the reported data is not always accurate."

The FCC acknowledged difficulty in gaining information about broadband deployment, especially in rural and "other hard-to-serve areas, including tribal lands."

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