NTIA’s interactive broadband map highlights the digital divide

The quality and cost of broadband remain issues for households across the US, and the Biden administration wants to draw attention to that unfortunate reality. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has published what it says is the first interactive public map detailing the “digital divide” in broadband access. You’ll not only see areas where broadband speeds fall below official targets (25Mbps down and 3Mbps up), but correlate that with high-poverty areas. You can look for specific locations, including Tribal lands and minority-serving institutions.

As you can see from the image above, the map isn’t particularly flattering. The performance shortfalls are spread across the country, and aren’t as concentrated in specific areas as you might think.

There’s a political motivation behind the map, of course. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo saw this as supporting President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes a “once-in-a-lifetime” effort to connect everyone in the country with fast, affordable internet access. It’s also a not-so-subtle criticism of the previous administration, suggesting that past rural broadband efforts didn’t do enough to meaningfully close gaps in internet service.

Of course, changing this map for the better won’t be easy. In addition to any political hurdles, officials need to refine broadband maps and secure the cooperation of internet providers that haven’t always been eager to serve rural and low-income areas. The data merely underscores the problem — it’s another matter entirely to fix it.

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