Congress has set aside $350 million to map who has broadband connections and who doesn’t across the country. Since the map will help the federal government decide where to spend $7 billion in broadband stimulus money, plenty of people see this project as key to who will get the biggest chunk of the money Congress set aside to extend broadband. And that brings us to Connected Nation, an organization that began delivering broadband to rural Kentucky.
The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Schatz wrote recently that Connected Nation is the biggest provider of broadband coverage maps — and is backed by the biggest of the big telecom outfits (Verizon, Comcast, AT&T). Put simply, Schatz reports, “Critics complain it uses unverifiable confidential information from phone and cable companies to draw its maps, and worry Connected Nation will use the maps to steer stimulus funds toward its big corporate sponsors, at the expense of smaller players or poorly served areas.”
There are critics aplenty. Schatz quotes those in Kentucky who are lobbying against the way CN does its mapping. They say CN overestimates where broadband is available. (See CN’s map of broadband availability in Kentucky above; Red means no broadband.) Art Brodsky, with the advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Schatz, “I think it’s a huge conflict of interest to turn our mapping over to the companies that stand to benefit from the results.” (Read Brodsky’s long indictment of Connected Nation here.) Meanwhile, Stacey Higgenbotham writes that some people balk at paying $350 million for a map “given that the carriers already know exactly which areas they service.”