Broadband mapping grant can help communities refine their strategy

In general, I find it difficult to get overly excited about criticism of a particular technology initiative from a senator who has to rely on his wife to open his e-mail because he doesn't know how. Really. Say broadband to John McCain and he probably thinks "Dixie Chicks."

However, the senator's recent criticism of the $350 million set aside for broadband mapping grant has some merit. Sort of. The problem isn't the money, though. It's the mission!

People in D.C. and across the nation assume the mission is to create state maps showing who has or doesn't have broadband, and roll these into one national Web-based map. It's not. The mission is--or should be--to execute an effective broadband needs analysis so the FCC can create an effective national broadband strategy plan.

Many people who've implemented high-priced, complex technology projects start with an extensive needs analysis that looks at current and future end user needs, technologies currently in place plus a dozen or so other factors and variables. To do anything less threatens the success of the project.

The new administration and Congress want a strategy plan for transforming how the U.S. (we the people and all our institutions) does business by significantly upgrading our broadband capabilities. Creating a good plan requires a thorough multi-faceted needs assessment. By giving away millions of dollars to just show who has and doesn't have broadband severely short-changes the broadband needs assessment process both locally and nationally. The mission does not achieve the goal.

What we need to do, Sen. McCain (and his trusty sidekick Sen. Coburn) is not complain about the money but educate the states to change the mission. Focus on doing comprehensive needs analysis. The map is simply medium through which you represent the market intelligence the needs analysis collects.

Effective broadband strategy through better market intelligence

The FCC is actually doing a lot of good needs assessment work already. Here's how the states can use that grant money to raise things to the next level.

The first step is the obvious work of gathering numbers on who doesn't have any broadband and where these individuals and organizations are located. It actually can be a painful and expensive exercise, but there are ways to make this less painful...Continued.

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