Saturday, February 13, 2010

Map shows broadband access at street level

For the first time, anyone in Tennessee can log onto an interactive online map and find out what high-speed Internet providers have service at their exact address.
The online map, put together by nonprofit Connected Tennessee and unveiled this week, will be updated in the coming months with specific Internet speeds available for each neighborhood, said Michael Ramage, the executive director of the group.

"This is as detailed as there is,'' he said.

People also can see what percentage of a neighborhood has computers and uses broadband Internet connections.

A $1.8 million federal stimulus grant made the interactive map possible. Funding was part of a federal push for a national map of the country's broadband infrastructure designed to make it easier to channel grants to specific areas that need broadband Internet support or investment.

The map, which shows the density or lack of Internet access in specific areas, also could help businesses and residents decide where to relocate, live or set up shop.

"This lets us get down to the micro-level,'' said Matt Largen, the director of the Office of Economic Development for Williamson County, who saw the map for the first time this week.

"I think the goal is to find the gaps and then get broadband to every single person who wants it in the county," Largen said.

Although Williamson County is the wealthiest in the Nashville area, there are rural areas in the county that have little or no high-speed Internet available.

Connected Tennessee had developed earlier maps of the state's broadband infrastructure, paid for with a $6.3 million grant from the state when the group was launched in 2007. But those don't have street-level detail.

Ramage said the interactive online platform, called BroadbandStat, uses geographic information system technology to incorporate layers of information that can be pulled on any single address.

He said Internet providers, including wireless companies, are providing Connected Tennessee with the street-level information about what areas have access to their service and what speeds are advertised.

Contact business reporter Naomi Snyder at 615-259-8284 or

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