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Fall 2009
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12 States Pick GIS to Help Build Broadband Coverage Maps

Highlights

  • The plan is to make high-speed Internet more accessible.
  • GIS combines service-provider data with street-level maps and local demographics.
  • ArcGIS Server makes data and maps available to a wide audience over the Internet.

Esri Professional ServicesTwelve U.S. states and Puerto Rico have chosen solutions based on Esri's ArcGIS software and technology to help develop broadband coverage maps and better position them for competitive funding available through the U.S. State Broadband Data and Development Grants Program. These states and territory selected Esri Business Partner Connected Nation, a nonprofit corporation based in Washington, D.C., to implement Esri's GIS technology-based solution to develop maps that identify areas where high-speed Internet service is available and unavailable across its state or territory.

The Grants Program implements the joint purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and the Broadband Data Services Improvement Act of 2008. ARRA pledges to inject $787 billion into the U.S. economy, and $7.2 billion of that is dedicated to improving U.S. broadband infrastructure. The Grants Program will provide approximately $240 million in competitive, matching grants to assist states in developing state-specific data on the deployment levels and adoption rates of broadband services and create publicly available statewide broadband maps. Another $200 million in grants is allocated in the first round of funding for sustainable broadband adoption programs and public computing centers. In addition, $3.6 billion in grants and loans is available in the first round for broadband infrastructure deployment.

The overall plan is to make high-speed Internet more accessible in areas currently without service and promote a wider adoption of Internet usage. Public and private entities are competing for the grants and loans. One of the criteria for qualifying is the use of public-private partnerships to promote grassroots-driven expansion of broadband and computer use, particularly among unserved and underserved populations.

Connected Nation specializes in establishing public-private partnerships to spearhead the initiatives and develop the maps. Nevada and Texas join a growing list of states partnering with Connected Nation, including Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

 example of BroadbandStat
BroadbandStat features easy-to-use tools for combining and viewing data.

The Texas Department of Agriculture will work with Connected Nation to deploy GIS technology and develop its broadband maps. "We are excited about this new partnership," says Texas agriculture commissioner Todd Staples. "This relationship will help Texas close the digital divide between urban and rural communities in our state. By creating a broadband map, we will learn which areas are unserved and underserved. This critical knowledge will lead to developing projects that bring high-speed Internet to all Texans, which will enhance economic development, expand educational opportunities, and improve health care."

The first step of the state-based public-private partnerships is to support the sensitive task of compiling proprietary data from competing service providers. The next step is to create a complete picture of a state's broadband coverage using ArcGIS technology to combine the service provider data with detailed street-level maps and local demographics. ArcGIS analysis tools are used to identify and depict served, unserved, and underserved areas of broadband deployment. States and telecommunications service provider applicants for broadband stimulus funds can provide compelling evidence for their cases by using GIS visualization tools.

In Nevada, Connected Nation is assisting the Nevada Broadband Task Force, appointed by Nevada governor Jim Gibbons. Its efforts have already produced a statewide map that identifies rural and remote areas that can be targeted for infrastructure grant funding.

"My administration is committed to improving the availability of quality broadband service for all Nevadans," says Governor Gibbons. "To accomplish that goal, Nevada must be proactive in taking the steps necessary to ensure that we maximize the amount of broadband stimulus funding awarded to the state and its providers. Our partner's extensive experience working with other states to increase broadband availability and use will be a great asset to the Nevada Broadband Task Force as it works to achieve its objectives."

ArcGIS Server makes the data and maps available to a wide audience over the Internet. This makes it possible for agencies and companies involved in broadband initiatives to analyze where the greatest potential exists for establishing new service. The general public can access prepared maps; use an interactive map to find information, such as coverage and Internet speed available in its neighborhoods; and verify or challenge the reported coverage areas.

The GIS technology used to design these interactive maps includes BroadbandStat, Esri's new rich Internet application (RIA) Web-based framework for viewing, analyzing, and sharing broadband service and related data. Developed by Esri Professional Services staff in consultation with Connected Nation, the solution is based on Esri ArcGIS Server technology and offers open access to extensive GIS capabilities to publish and share geographic data, maps, analyses, and models. Its dashboard-style display was created using the ArcGIS Web mapping API for Flex to provide the RIA user experience.

More Information

For more information about BroadbandStat, visit www.esri.com/bbstat or e-mail telecominfo@esri.com. For more information about Connected Nation, visit www.connectednation.org or e-mail info@connectednation.org.

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