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The Federal Communications Commission released data today detailing the spread of high-speed Internet connections across the nation as of the end of 2008, including this map (click on image for an expanded view). You might be thinking, “Wow, that’s awesome — so why are we spending $350 million to create such a map as part of the broadband stimulus bill?” It’s because the FCC map is worthless.
The map defines broadband as any technology (excluding mobile broadband providers) delivering speeds of 200 kbps down. I challenge folks to surf to Facebook, the new video-heavy CNN site or even get their Gmail over such a connection. It’s not a fun experience. Plus, at those speeds video streaming isn’t going to happen at all.
However, there are only a few areas of the nation that don’t have access to at least 200 kbps at the end of 2008, and according to the map many folks have a choice of between four and six providers. However, given that some of those are undoubtedly meeting the old minimum standard of 200 kbps or even the new minimum standard of 768 kbps, I can’t say this map really proves a competitive broadband market for anyone who wants to do anything more than get email.
Even if the map’s not your thing, the report does have some good data, such as the nifty chart below that shows the distribution of access technologies based on the speeds they provide. Given that we’re moving toward a video-centric web that’s going to require faster download and upload speeds, I think the title of this chart should be, “Why DSL is Doomed.”
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