Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Promises Versus Realities of Broadband Coverage and Performance

A recent article about broadband internet access by Bob Scardamalia, the former chief demographer for the state of New York, sheds light on the promises versus the realities broadband access and performance especially in rural areas of this country. In the article Bob talks about his personal experience in trying to get (and maintain) high speed internet connectivity while running a small business in a rural part of Albany County. The article points out many of the contradictory realities of broadband access as compared to the promises made from many broadband providers. 

Of particular interest are the National Broadband Maps . These show, among other things, the coverage by types of technology available in an area. You can, for example, narrow the map down to the State of New York and see the following level of total coverage:
Click to Enlarge

You could also look at the speed test versus the advertised speeds for your area.  
Click to Enlarge

But some of these maps need to be viewed with caution. this is particularly true with the coverage maps. As article by Bob Scardamalia points out, there are problems with coverage maps. Each state is responsible for reporting its own data, so there is not national standard necessarily being applied. Definitions and reporting techniques are inconsistent between states, as well as possibly within states. And the data is based on "advertised" speeds reported by Internet service providers. So while these maps provide at least some insight into the world of broadband, they shouldn't be accepted blindly.