NTIA: Broadband map proves stimulus wasn’t waste

House Republicans focused their first telecom hearing this year on the misuse of the $7 billion dollars devoted to broadband in the stimulus package.

They criticized overbuild in areas that already have access to broadband and questioned why the map was built after the funding went out. 

The map, which will be updated twice a year, cost about $200 million over five years. Most of that money supports data collections.

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The Commerce Department and the FCC commended the effort as a key step in spreading broadband across the country.

"As Congress recognized, we need better data on America’s broadband Internet capabilities in order to improve them," said Rebecca Blank, acting deputy commerce secretary. 

Strickling said the map is not a pretense to add new regulations. It has been commended by the cable industry group NCTA as well as AT&T. 

"Since I'm not a regulator, [broadband companies] have nothing to fear from me," he said. The map will be used by "all manner of policymakers" to improve Internet access and adoption. 

The figures included in the map are under scrutiny. Free Press, a media reform group, criticized the exclusion of broadband pricing data.

The map is accessible online to everyone. The broadband data is mashed with census and geographic data, so users can home in on a particular census block to determine the level of connectivity there. It is also mapped against broadband speed figures collected by the FCC.