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CN’s Broadband Awards nominations proves that accurate data mapping drives the development that connects communities

Bowling Green, Ky (November 2, 2023) - On Oct. 3, Connected Nation (CN) was named as a finalist in the U.S. Broadband Awards in the categories “best broadband & data mapping solution or initiative” for its geospatial services work with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), and “innovation in state broadband deployment” for its work with the Kansas Office of Broadband Development.

CN is being recognized because we’re doing what needs to be done to increase equity and access for broadband services. Colin Reilly, Vice President of Data Strategy & Technical Services for CN, said that this recognition “shows that CN is taking the correct approach to this critical need for better broadband mapping and data collection.”

The Digital Divide is an ever-present issue of our growing digital world. With 5.19 billion people using the internet as of July 2023, far too many of them are being separated from equitable resources. In the United States, an estimated 30 million people do not access internet service in their households.

So, how do we bring internet access to those who need it?

It starts with data. Knowing where broadband is available and how many people are impacted by the unavailability answers the primary question of “who” needs broadband – also known as data mapping.

Data mapping is integral to the funding and development of infrastructure that supports areas, often rural and low-income communities, in need of broadband service. It notifies important governing bodies of where additional focus must be applied.

In an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) article, network development expert Vladimir Daigele stated that data mapping is “important to understand the reality in a place, as it allows different stakeholders to come together and plan optimal network technologies and financing solutions.”

Accurate data mapping is a tool for equity and access, so enhancing data mapping capabilities and programming is imperative. When some populations don’t have access to broadband services and the internet, they also don’t have access to the information, services, and opportunities that connected populations do.

This means they can’t get crucial information for natural disasters and disaster preparedness. It means that remote learning and education are unavailable. It means that telehealth and telemedicine services are not an option for any health concerns, including emergencies.

Painting an accurate picture

To determine access, the FCC collects information from internet service providers (ISPs) and publishes it to the National Broadband Map. This map is updated every six months for the locational fabric, and is continually updated as challenges are presented and resolved for broadband availability.

The FCC map is not typically accurate in terms of the actual access needs of many rural and low-income areas, as service providers will report in census blocks. This means that if one or two households in a census block have access, the whole area is marked as having access. Thus, the map cannot provide a true, detailed picture of broadband coverage. For CN to truly understand the Digital Divide, accurate mapping is necessary.

Thankfully, stakeholders, including CN, can challenge the federal map. These challenges can fill in the blanks or correct information on a granular level that the FCC fabric map typically cannot. States that don’t work to examine and accurately map their broadband availability and coverage will lag behind those that do.

CN is continually working with states like Michigan and Kansas to push for precise and reliable digital equity planning. These finalist placements from the U.S. Broadband Awards demonstrate our efforts to be exactly where they need to be.

The winners of the U.S. Broadband Awards will be announced on Thursday, November 16, at a reception in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the honors and the finalists, head to the U.S. Broadband Awards website.

Below is a photo of the Connected Nation GIS team.

Gis Team