Connected Nation, the telco-allied non-profit that wrote the mapping part of the broadband bill, won bids in Alaska and Kansas, it announced.
Art Brodsky has been warning about this outfit for years now, and we’ll get to see whether or not Connected Nation actually produces worthwhile data. It’s particularly sad that Alaska gave away its mapping oppotunity because the broadband stimulus faces special challenges there. An accurate map would reveal a wide variety of unusual technological alternatives in place there, but I’m guessing that Connected Nation will just show that most of Alaska already has broadband.
Brodsky points out that $350 million may be too much. I’m guessing that it could be 100 times the cost or even 10,000 times the cost, but the mapping project I’m thinking of won’t issue its press release until Dec. 6. I will update you then.
Most states (Delaware, Colorado, Louisiana, and so on) that have received mapping money from the NTIA are sending the cash to their own departments of technology. If in fact they get 100 times what they need for the project, the rest of the cash can be put to good use by upgrading the states’ own technology departments.
Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge first sounded the alarm about Connected Nation at the start of 2009, saying the organization was connected to Kentucky’s Republican governor and to telephone company lobbyists, enabling it to charge the state $400,000 and then make the state do the work.
More recently, Brodsky claimed that bids were rigged in Connected Nation’s favor in the state of Florida, arguing that there was no other explanation why the highest bidder won a broadband mapping contract.
Maps are important. They show where the government should invest money. They say who has broadband and who does not. If the maps are drawn by the phone companies, they could direct stimulus money only to the areas they don’t care about, bypassing wealthy areas they would like to deliver service to but have not yet built out.
Today, NYPIRG is calling out such policies. In its report (available in .pdf format here), NYPIRG says, “Contracts or grants to map data … must include requirements
that the mapping entity disclose any financial or other relationships to broadband providers. If data are self reported by a broadband provider and not independently verified, that should be disclosed and the data should not be considered accurate until independently verified.”
The report does not specifically name Connected Nation, but readers understand that’s the problem that’s addressed by this recommendation — a recommendation that is so obvious that it should not have to be said.
The report contains a massive number of other good ideas, endorsing structural separation, better data collection, an internet literacy curriculum and more.
NYPIRG’s report is a masterpiece.