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LightBox Weaves “Location Fabric” to Improve Broadband Maps

The new product goes deeper on geographic information, offering data such as property assessment, outlines, demographics and building type — even in rural and tribal areas. It comes amid an influx of broadband funding.

With lots of federal money coming in to expand high-speed Internet, the tech vendor LightBox is releasing a new “location fabric” product to help state and local government find the places where broadband is needed most.

The product, SmartFabric, offers customers deep data attributes focused on parcels and buildings — instead of simply aerial imagery and outlines, the location fabric concept involves adding information such as building type, floorplan, demographics, property assessments and much else. The idea is that, by giving governments better information — especially when it comes to trickier real estate such as multi-unit buildings and rural areas — they can get a much clearer and more precise building-level idea of exactly where broadband is truly available and affordable.

“The objective for this data in this database is to be comprehensive, precise, accurate and with high ‘veracity’ which means information refresh,” wrote Bill Price, LightBox’s vice president of government solutions, in an email to Government Technology. “Most commercial clients want investment-grade data quality for investment decision-making such as in real estate, insurance and so on. Now that there is significant funding for broadband, everyone is getting serious about this component to produce broadband availability data down to the location level of granularity.”

Though governors and other elected officials have increasingly embraced the importance of broadband Internet as an economic driver and important component of quality of life, most of the country has struggled to produce accurate and comprehensive maps of the places where it is and isn’t available.

Now, with $65 billion set aside for broadband in the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, states will have the resources to deploy much more infrastructure. The question of where to put it, then, has become all the more important.

Working with states such as Georgia and Alabama, LightBox has sought to fill that void by essentially giving them a better starting point.

“The fabric is essential but not the only component required to accurately map broadband availability to each location,” Price wrote. “To do that you need the ISP availability data to aggregate to give an accurate picture of which locations have ‘broadband’ available to them. The result from that work adds more attribute(s) to each fabric location record regarding the broadband data requested, collected and standardized. Each record could then be coded via those attributes of information as served, unserved, underserved and so on depending on what is requested and provided by the ISPs.”

SmartFabric is platform-agnostic, Price said, and can be integrated into products already existing in the agency’s infrastructure, such as Esri’s ArcGIS.
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.