NCTA: Broadband Map Is 1.0

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Cable operators were quick to point out Thursday that a just-released broadband mapping effort still has a ways to go, while at least one telco was emphasizing the upside.

While giving the National Telecommunications & Information Administration props for what is called the first phase of an interactive broadband availability map, and getting it online by the Feb. 17 deadline, Rick Chessen, National Cable & Telecommunications Association SVP, law & regulatory policy, also talked about its limitations.

"We've been impressed by the work of the state entities and by NTIA's leadership in bringing this first phase of the project to completion by the statutory deadline," and said NCTA had been cooperating with the data collection undertaken by state entities.

He said that, rather than a criticism, those limitations were the "inevitable byproduct" of a massive new effort. He pointed to the inexperience of some of the data collectors, and suggested that many providers will not be counted, either because they did not participate or because of "inevitable" errors.

"So, while the Broadband Map Version 1.0 is an important contribution to the broadband policy discussion, we fully expect that future maps will yield even better data and that any gaps between NTIA's results and data from other sources will narrow."

NCTA represents the nation's largest ISP, Comcast.

Over on AT&T's Website (it is the second largest ISP), Jeff Brueggeman, AT&T vice president of public policy, blogged that he did not want to get lost in what he considered the map's flaws -- which he did not enumerate -- but instead was looking at the bottom line "that NTIA is producing the most detailed map of broadband coverage the country has ever had."

He gave a shout-out to the possibility that the map could be used to reform the Universal Service Fund. "To the extent that NTIA's broadband map provides details about the "rural-rural divide" described in the FCC's recent NPRM on universal service reform, it can play a valuable role in helping to bring about long-overdue reform of that program," he said.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has said the map will help identify where to target broadband subsidies, which if the administration has anything to do with it, will include $5 billion to deploy 4G wireless where it is not currently employed. According to NTIA, only a bit over a third of the country currently has access to the 6 mbps speed service it roughly equates with 4G.

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