I have been working on the problem of broadband mapping accuracy since the summer of 2013 when the Gold County Broadband Consortia collected broadband survey forms at the Nevada County Fair. Plotting the information gathered at the Fair revealed some significant gaps in the California Broadband Maps.
The GCBC worked with the California Public Utilities Commission staff to came up with a standard form which could handed out at community meetings to collect field level information on actual broadband coverage in the GCBC areas of responsibility, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado Counties and eastern part of Alpine County The form was eventually put online, producing a spreadsheet that with a little clean up could be forwarded directly to the CPUC for inclusion on broadband maps. Sample online map is HERE.
The problem of collecting field level data which show the real broadband coverage is a significant challenge for state and federal agencies responsible for producing accurate broadband maps. Maps which are essential for policy making and the equitable distribution of broadband subsidies. I have been thinking about the problems for some time and propose the following solution.
In 1867, Oliver H. Kelley, an employee in the Department of Agriculture, founded the Grange. The Grange’s purpose was to provide farmers with an organization that could assist them with any difficulties that arose. One of the latest difficulties is the lack of broadband in rural communities.
Rural Granges places them in the right location to participate in a grassroots field level broadband data collection program. Broadband access is becoming a component of modern agriculture, and the national Grange organization has highlighted the need for agricultural access to this critical infrastructure. Granges have a vested interest in making sure broadband maps accurately reflect the real coverage.
According to the National Grange Organization:
State agencies responsible for broadband maps should consider developing a grassroots field level data collection program in conjunction with the State and County Granges in those counties with poor broadband coverage. The Granges collect the data in the field and state agencies consolidate the data in spreadsheets, create shape-files for submission to FCC/NTIA for publication of field level broadband data.
With granges all across America, this program could be replicated in all states with large gaps in broadband coverage. This real-world data will help solve the national broadband mapping accuracy problem.
This is a sketch of an idea, with lots of work and coordination ahead to create a fully functional program. Your thoughts?