Article Posted by Michael Byrne, Geospatial Information Officer (GIO)

Yesterday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced California as one of the first four states to receive Broadband Mapping grants.  The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was awarded $2.3 million to develop a comprehensive map of broadband service availability for the state.   Through the process, the CPUC will create an interactive web-based map that will give California residents the ability to access information about the services available at their own addresses.  This award is significant for a number of reasons. 

First, this award is consistent with the Governor’s Broadband Task Force of understanding broadband availability in the state.  Two years ago California began its efforts to understand broadband availability in California.  Understanding service availability helps move the policy discussion along to the specific goals the Governor wants for broadband in California.  We can only reach innovative policies for increasing digital literacy and broadband adoption if understand where broadband service is and isn’t.  This mapping effort is the baseline for a wide range of policy conversations that helps California be more successful and competitive in the global economy.

Second, it is important that California is one of the first awards announced.  This announcement means that the CPUC put forth a proposal that NTIA valued and contained all the elements required for effective policy development.  It also means that as an agency CPUC has the core capacity to implement complicated mapping for information technology that again leads the nation.   Until recently CPUC had only limited implementation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  However with this award, CPUC is fast becoming a leader in understanding why GIS is so important and implementing this technology for better policy outcomes.

Finally, this award is funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), and California again leads in ensuring stimulus money is flowing to California to support economic development and create jobs.  The goal of the mapping effort is to help understand the best locations for later broadband infrastructure improvement grants that will stimulate growth and create jobs for California.  The sooner we get our mapping efforts under way, the sooner we can help evaluate where infrastructure improvements will be and the more jobs we can create in California. 

CPUC will lead this effort and a number of partners will be involved including the Office of the State Chief Information Officer and the California Natural Resources Agency.  I am excited about this award, and look forward to California leading the charge for broadband mapping and its positive outcomes like digital literacy, economic recovery, and global competitiveness.