Methodologies, Definitions and Frequently Asked Questions
Broadband: Data transmission technology that provides two-way data transmission to and from the Internet with advertised speeds of at least 768 kilobits per second (kbps) downstream and at least 200 kbps upstream to end users.
Census Block: The smallest geographic area delineated by the United States Census Bureau.
Community Anchor Institution: Schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, public safety entities, community colleges and other institutions of higher education, and other community support organizations and entities.
Road Segment: Generally defines part of a street between two intersections with a unique identifier (name or number) and a set address range.
Service Area: The broadband service "footprint" or entirety of a geographic area where a connection to broadband Internet can be provided within 7-10 business days.
The words "beta" or "draft" mean that the maps are a work in progress and being continually improved. We strongly encourage the public to help us verify the map’s accuracy and notify us if there appears to be a misrepresentation of coverage.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment of 2009 requires that the national map “depict geographic extent to which broadband service capability is deployed and available from a commercial provider or public provider throughout each State.” This Recovery Act requires that NTIA by February 17, 2011, make the map “accessible by the public on a World Wide Web site of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in a form that is interactive and searchable.”
The source data for the national map is the product of state-led initiatives that were created by the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008. This program was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and data collection efforts by entities (such as Connect Minnesota) designated by the state began in 2009. Since then, Connect Minnesota has solicited, reviewed, verified, and submitted seven rounds of data to the NTIA since spring 2010. A lot of the effort by the NTIA over the year has been placed on integrating the data among the various designated entities, so as to ensure some level of consistency. Connected Nation and its subsidiaries have endeavored to be a constructive partner in this process, and our white papers and business rules have informed and frequently served as the basis for those efforts. The National Broadband Map can be accessed here: http://broadbandmap.gov/
The data collection is done in accordance with the requirements of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and subsequent clarifications set forth by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) State Broadband Initiative Grant Program (SBI). The process begins by contacting all known providers in the state and providing information about the broadband mapping project. Information on broadband service areas is collected from each willing provider through voluntary participation. A nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is offered to all providers prior to the submission of data; the data protected through the NDA is limited to highly sensitive network infrastructure information, including middle-mile locations. Connect Minnesota strives to maintain a flexible mapping process in order to be able to collect data from providers in a variety of formats based on providers’ technical capabilities and resources.
As set forth by the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and subsequent clarifications of the State Broadband Initiative Grant Program (SBI), specific data layers illustrating where broadband service is available are submitted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The dataset includes layers outlined in the technical appendix of the NOFA, such as broadband service availability by Census Block for those Census Blocks with an area of no greater than two square miles, broadband service availability by road segment in those Census Blocks larger in area than 2 square miles, and the footprint of wireless service providers (including fixed wireless, mobile wireless, and satellite). Additional information provided on service availability includes the technology of transmission, the FCC Registration Number (FRN), and the maximum advertised downstream and upstream speeds. In addition to the broadband service data, information on Community Anchor Institutions is also collected and submitted.
Since the majority of broadband providers do not have data stored in any single or standard format, Connect Minnesota works with providers to understand their data and network structure to help them “translate” this information into a useful GIS format in order to produce accurate service area representations. Data can range from ESRI shapefiles, CAD data, spreadsheets, previously existing maps of coverage areas, a list of served Census Blocks and road segments, and everything in between. The level of granularity displayed on the broadband service inventory maps depends on the type of data a provider can make available. After the received data is processed by Connect Minnesota, the representation of the service area is sent back to the provider for review and approval, and revisions supplied as necessary. The approved service area of each provider, whether supplied by a list of Census Blocks where broadband is available or by the actual extent of the broadband served area, is represented on the maps.
Broadband service area data is processed based on the format in which it was delivered to Connect Minnesota. Since the majority of broadband providers do not have data stored in any single or standard format, Connect Minnesota works with providers to understand their data and network structure to help them “translate” this information into a useful GIS format in order to produce accurate service area representations. Depending on the type of information a provider can make available, data can range from ESRI shapefiles, CAD data, spreadsheets, previously existing maps of coverage areas, a list of served Census Blocks and road segments, and everything in between. Processing these formats into a standard GIS format includes digitization, spatial referencing, service area estimations based on infrastructure locations and capabilities, and other customized processes that depend on the format(s) provided. If a list of the Census Blocks that a provider can service were made available to Connect Minnesota, this should be interpreted to mean that there is broadband service available in that Census Block, rather than the assumption that all addresses in that Census Block are serviced by that provider.
For fixed wireless providers that do not have their footprint in a spatial format to provide to Connect Minnesota, information is collected on the wireless network and the individual towers to create wireless propagations. Information such as tower location, tower height, transmit frequency, azimuth, transmit antenna gain, foliage cover, etc. are collected from providers to serve as inputs into a propagation model. The resulting product depicts a graphical illustration of the theoretical propagation characteristics of a selected frequency range based on the defined variables.
Areas within Census Blocks with zero population were not removed from broadband serviced areas as providers have indicated, under the definition of broadband set forth in the SBI NOFA, that service could be made available to an address in the approved service area within 7-10 business days.
There are several planned and ongoing phases to the verification of broadband data being collected, including provider verification, consumer verification, and field verification.
Initially, after the received data is processed by Connect Minnesota, the representation of the service area is sent back to the provider for review and approval, and revisions supplied as necessary. Only after a provider has approved the accuracy of the representation of their service area is their information included for analysis and map display.
After the public release of the maps, consumers can provide feedback to Connect Minnesota that allows for a real-world comparison of the broadband landscape to the information received. This feedback is essential in providing another level of verification for the broadband availability maps.
Field validation provides a third level of verification for the broadband availability data. This work comprises on-the-ground analysis and verification processes such as (a) conducting random spectrum analysis studies throughout the state; (b) identifying pre-selected vertical assets and cross-referencing provider-submitted data against the Federal Communications Commission databases such as Antenna Structure Registration and/or the Universal Licensing System; (c) validating site information against data collection such as the physical coordinates using GPS units; and (d) locating physical wireline attributes (such as remote terminals, CATV plant, etc.).
We rely on citizen feedback to verify the accuracy of the broadband inventory maps. Please send us your feedback on the following form: http://www.connectmn.org/broadband-inquiry. We respond to all inquiries and incorporate relevant information on an ongoing basis.
Connect Minnesota has developed a geoprocessing tool that analyzes Census Block demographics with the aggregated broadband service overlay. Rather than assume that all households are evenly distributed throughout the entire area of a Census Block, the assumption is made that households are more likely distributed along the roadline network; while this is not always the case, it is the more likely standard. Then based on area ratios between how much of the roadline network is covered by broadband service in that Census Block, the ratio is applied to the number of households in the Census Block to create an estimate for the number of broadband serviced households in each Census Block in the state. The household numbers are aggregated from each Census Block to estimate the number of households serviced by broadband at the state level.
Connect Minnesota has solicited, reviewed, verified, and submitted seven rounds of data to the NTIA, semi-annually since spring 2010. The broadband data collected from various mapping entities and state agencies across the fifty-six states and territories that encompass the United States serves as the inputs for the broadband information displayed on the National Broadband Map. Connect Minnesota will continue to work with broadband providers, collect and process data, and submit semi-annual datasets to NTIA to update the National Broadband Map.