Two and a half years ago, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched an interactive online map that shows what high-speed Internet services are available to every neighborhood in the country.
This week, we are updating the dataset underlying the National Broadband Map (NBM) for the sixth time since it was established in early 2011 in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and partners in every state and territory.
The new data – current as of Dec. 31, 2012 – reveals what types of technology and speeds are available from more than 2,000 telecommunications companies nationwide. And it confirms that we are making steady progress as a nation in ensuring that all Americans have access to at least a basic level of broadband.
As of the end of 2012, nearly 99 percent of Americans had access to broadband speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 Kbps upstream through either wired or wireless service. And 96 percent had access to broadband speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream – speeds that will soon be considered a basic requirement for accessing many online services. Moreover, nearly 90 percent of Americans had access to 4G wireless broadband, defined as service with download speeds of at least 6 Mbps, as of the end of 2012. That’s up from 81 percent in June 2012 and just under 26 percent in June 2010.
But the map data also make clear that there is still more work to be done - particularly when it comes to building out the advanced, high-capacity telecommunications networks that our nation needs to compete and succeed in the global digital economy.
Of the 2,083 providers in the latest update, 1,618 offer basic broadband speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, and 1,018 offer broadband speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream. But only 200 offer 100-megabit connections.
What’s more, the number of Americans with access to fiber to the premises was just above 23 percent as of the end of 2012, compared with just above 20 percent as of June 2012. And only 6.7 percent of Americans have gigabit connections in their neighborhoods.
The new data also underscore the significant broadband gap that still separates urban and rural communities. The data show that while nearly all urban communities (99.6 percent) had access to download speeds of at least 10 Mbps as of the end of 2012, just under 84 percent of rural communities did. And while 88 percent of rural communities had access to download speeds of 6 Mbps, only 83 percent of rural communities had access to 6-Mbps download speeds and 1.5 Mbps upload speeds.
The National Broadband Map is built on the most extensive set of broadband availability data ever collected. Government agencies and non-profits at the state level gather the information from multiple sources, including the carriers themselves, and then carefully verify and correct it. NTIA and the FCC then compile the data for the national map.
Since it was launched, the map has drawn more than 1 million unique visitors and over 100 million requests for the underlying data, which is updated twice a year. Stakeholders can contact NTIA or our state partners – either directly through the map’s website at http://www.broadbandmap.gov/  - to help us improve and refine the information.
We designed the map for many different types of users. Consumers can use it to pull up a list of local broadband providers, along with details about the type of Internet connections they provide and the speeds they offer. Economic developers and real estate agents can use it to market particular communities to businesses and residents looking for cutting-edge telecommunications services.
Researchers and academics can use the map to figure out which states, counties and census blocks have the fastest Internet connections, and to compare those findings with all sorts of demographic data, such as race and income. And policy makers can use the map to figure out where to target their efforts to close the digital divide and ensure that all Americans have access to broadband.
Most of all, we created the map to serve as an important source of information about the state of the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure in today’s world as we prepare for tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.