Most folks who have been working with broadband technology over the years will readily attest to the difficulty associated with creating maps of places where high-speed connectivity is available and affordable. This difficulty arises from the fact that in order to be successful, such efforts depend on the willingness of service providers to share their data on the location of their infrastructure, which is something they have historically been very reluctant to do, since they regard such information as proprietary.
Here at eCorridors, we're proud to announce the release of a new application that takes an alternative approach to the mapping of broadband connectivity. It's called the "Community Broadband Map" and lives at http://www.ecorridors.vt.edu/maps/broadbandmap.php. We consider it to be a beta release, so if you encounter any problems (or have any comments) please report them on the discussion forum.
The site consists of a speed testing application, the open-source "NDT" tool developed for Internet2 (http://e2epi.internet2.edu/ndt/), and a Google Map, tied together by a form through which users can measure their speed, mark their location, add optional descriptive information about their connection, and add themselves to the map.
The focus of this particular endeavor is to get an assessment of residential broadband trends, so those who do the speed test and add a marker are encouraged to do so from their home connection.
This represents a "bottom-up" approach to broadband mapping, insofar as it is driven by the voluntary contribution of connectivity information by users. One can imagine numerous potential uses of this map as it becomes populated with a sufficient amount of data. In areas where the map reveals an abundance of high-speed connectivity, communities could use the map to illustrate this fact, as a means to attract technology workers and their employers. In areas where the map reveals a lack of high-speed connectivity, communities could use the map as a means to attract new ISPs, or as justification for developing their own infrastructure, where permitted by law. Individuals could use the map as an input to personal location decisions. All these uses of the map, of course, must proceed with the awareness that the data behind it may contain errors. No individual data point should be treated as authoritative, but the aggregate trends across a given geographic area are more robust. While there are known validity issues associated with both Internet speed testing and the use of user-submitted data, it is our hope that with enough data points the "signal to noise" ratio of good data to bad will be favorable, and we (and the rest of the world) will be able to make some inferences about general trends in connectivity.
The amount of useful information the map can convey will increase with the number of users that contribute data. Help the community build a map of the current state of broadband availability by adding your own marker!