Mapping Broadband in New Hampshire: Everyone's Project

Carol Miller

I've heard it a million times, and yet that familiar phrase has a story to tell that's unique and different at the same time. "I come from [town] and need access to broadband to [do XYZ]." It's the same old song and dance, except it reflects a frustration level about the availability of broadband as a modern-day communication tool that so many of us have taken for granted.

We all know how important broadband is to economic development, telemedicine, education and all forms of communication from business to social media. It's become a way of life. I'd be hard pressed to remember a morning or evening that my fingers have not graced the keyboard.

Broadband or access to broadband is a statewide problem. Our major centers have a panacea of providers offering broadband services at very competitive rates, but even those centers have pockets of unserved and underserved areas-areas that are just outside the range of technologies that could adequately serve them. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "I am just beyond the end of the cable access," or "I'm located just a few miles from the telephone central office," I would start a broadband fund.

Truth be told, there are towns in all 10 counties that have limited or no broadband at all. Small towns with spread-out populations remain unprofitable to serve. Towns that have little or no resources to contribute to constituents may be out of the digital loop. There are no silver bullets that will fix our problems, only a series of baby steps to get us there. Additionally, speaking for the technology, New Hampshire's future is at stake. It is our challenge to find ways to help fill the gaps and get broadband to the people who need, and want, it.

Part of the problem is we aren't exactly sure where broadband isn't. No one has mapped where it is! The New Hampshire Broadband Mapping and Planning Program (NHBMPP), funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is part of a national effort to expand high-speed Internet and adoption through improved data collection and broadband planning. Managed by the GRANIT System at Complex Systems Research Center at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the project has engaged the nine regional planning commissions throughout the state to inventory and map current and planned broadband coverage available to businesses, educators and citizens. Data from community anchor institutions, broadband service providers and the public will be merged to create an overall picture of the state of broadband in New Hampshire.

The five-year project also includes a planning component that is designed to utilize the mapping results to build momentum for regional broadband plans. It will create broadband stakeholder groups to identify barriers to deployment of broadband services, promote collaboration with service providers and facilitate information sharing. It will enable us to make the right decisions about investments in infrastructure through public-private partnerships and a phased approach to resources on a community-by-community basis.

Get involved! Visit the project website. Broadband access surveys used to document service by location, type, speed and cost will soon be available. We need cities, towns, residents and businesses alike to weigh in on the availability of broadband. Help us help you by attending one of the many Broadband Mapping Forums throughout the state. Sessions will be co-hosted by UNH, the nine regional planning commissions and the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development.

Carol Miller is director of broadband technology with the State of New Hampshire's Division of Economic Development, Department of Resources and Economic Development. For more information, contact Carol at 603.271.2341, ext. 138, or by email.


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