Thinking Tech

In West Virginia, 416,359 without wired broadband access

In West Virginia, 416,359 without wired broadband access

Posting in Design

The FCC's new interactive map shows where broadband grant money is headed, and who needs it most.

The Federal Communications Commission has released a new interactive map detailing its initial grant awards under the Connect America Fund (CAF) project, an initiative designed to bring wired broadband to unserved rural communities in the United States. Among the data revealed, West Virginia appears to have the largest unserved population proportional to its size today (416,359 unserved), Wisconsin is getting the most grant money from the CAF (more than $38 million), and 13 states are receiving no money from the fund at all.

By 2020, the FCC aims to connect all 19 million unserved rural Americans with broadband speeds of at least three megabits per second downstream, and 768 kilobits per second upstream. That's a noble goal, but also a sad counter point to the broadband-rich communities that are getting upgraded to gigabit networks in 2012.

It's also telling that both AT&T and Verizon have declined funding so far from the CAF to do their own part in deploying broadband to more rural communities. AT&T suggests that it's working on its own strategy for rural deployments, and while Verizon hasn't given an official reason for not accepting the FCC's money, it has stated that the cash on offer was "relatively small." The reality is that rural broadband is an expensive endeavor, and it's quite likely that the big operators would rather focus on more profitable ventures.

The CAF map, meanwhile, is only the latest in a series of visual reports from the FCC tracking wired and wireless broadband statistics. It's also interactive. Mouse over a green state on the map, and you get a list of total locations receiving funding support in the state, total monies granted, total unserved broadband locations in the state, the number of counties supported by the new funding, and the number of census blocks addressed by new deployments. In the first phase of CAF funding, the FCC is doling out $115 million to 37 states.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure