February 18, 2011 By Lauren Katims Nadeau
According to the National Broadband Map released this week, 1,200 people living in rural Elko County, Nev., have no access to the Internet. Or do they?
The interactive map, which reveals wireless and wired broadband Internet coverage in the U.S., may not be completely accurate, said an official with a Nevada telecom industry trade group.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched the map Thursday, Feb. 17 as part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan intended to improve Internet coverage and connectivity speeds throughout the United States by 2020.
The map shows Alaska, Texas, Idaho and Nevada as the only states with U.S. Census tracts that have no ability to connect to the Internet. However, some Nevada ISPs apparently believe the first version of the map isn’t an accurate representation of Internet accessibility in Nevada.
“There are humungous errors in that map,” said Karen Pearl, executive director of the Nevada Telecommunications Association, on Friday, Feb. 18. The association represents various service providers in the state. “We’re ticked! That was a lot of effort, time and taxpayer money.”
The 50 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia received federal funding in 2009 to collect broadband data from local Internet service providers to help create the broadband map.
Connected Nation, a nonprofit public-private partnership, was contracted as the broadband mapping agent for 12 states and Puerto Rico, contributing nearly a quarter of the records that compose the national map.
The Nevada map was created by Connect Nevada, a subsidiary of Connected Nation, which worked with each of the state’s broadband providers to create detailed maps of broadband coverage and to assess the current state of broadband adoption, community-by-community, across Nevada. The Nevada Telecommunications Association helped facilitate the data collection in the state.
As with many new programs, traffic on the map website has been heavy since its initial launch Thursday, sometimes preventing the map from loading correctly — a possible explanation about the confusion about the data.
“The data in the Connect Nevada map is the same data being used for the National Broadband Map,” Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Connected Nation, wrote in an e-mail. “We have received inquiries regarding how provider data is displayed across the two versions and we are working to investigate and respond to these questions. Due to the fact that the national map has only been available for 24 hours, we are currently investigating consumer and provider questions and will be offering clarifying answers as soon as we have more information," she said.
The map, which will be updated twice a year, cost about $200 million over five years, according to The Hill. Most of that money supports data collections.
Along with the map, the NTIA released Thursday the results of a new nationwide survey on broadband adoption. As much as 10 percent of the country lacks broadband Internet access, the report found. The map shows that between 5 and 10 percent of Americans lack access to broadband at speeds sufficient to download Web pages, photos and video, and use simple video conferencing, according to the NTIA.
“Nationwide, non-adoption at home for the Internet and broadband stands at 28.9 percent and 31.8 percent of households, respectively. The proportion of all persons who do not use the Internet anywhere equals 28.3 percent,” according to the NTIA report. In October 2010, approximately 68 percent of U.S. households were connected via broadband, while 2.8 percent used dial-up service.
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