August 31st, 2009

The Speed Matters Interactive Map: The Most Dramatic Proof to Date That Douglas Was Blowing Smoke On Universal Access

by Philip Baruth

One of the beautifies of announcing you won’t run for re-election? You won’t be held accountable for broken promises. And in the case of Jim Douglas, the promises have been many and basic. Case in point: in 2007 Douglas announced his “E-State Inititiative,” a basic promise of universal digital access within the state’s borders by 2010. Let’s check in on where we are, here in late August 2009, with some graphic help from Speed Matters, an organization promoting higher-speed broadband nationwide.

Okay, running at a sixth of the capacity they enjoy in South Korea is no huge shock. Ditto for falling well behind Japan, Sweden and Germany. After all, these were countries who understood the global economy from the get-go, places where their more progressive visionaries weren’t fighting a constant isolationist backlash.

And a relatively poor, lightly populated, mountainous state like Vermont was always going to have to work twice as hard to establish itself in the new Information Age.

But take a longer, second look at that county-wide map of Vermont. Now you can see just exactly how far we are from achieving the goals of the E-State Initiative. In truth, at the pace Douglas has fostered, we’ll be lucky to have all of Chittenden County at basic broadband speed by 2010.

One more long look at that map. Every time we have the same old discussions about why companies won’t relocate to Vermont, you should see that image. Every time we debate the reasons why 20-34 year olds move out of state, that map should come to mind.

And if you want to supplement that image with some others that will blow your mind completely, download the Speed Matters interactive map.

In an information economy, you either position yourself to provide or manage information, or you are downwardly mobile as a nation. Or a state. Or a county. Or a person.

Of course, Jim Douglas has four more months until his marker on the E-State Initiative gets called. Maybe he’ll get it done by Christmas. So if you live in one of the many white zones on this broadband map, you have that hope to cling to.

Depressing Update, Monday, 3:46 pm:

Got to thinking about those small spots of dark red on the map, and wondering why they had such blazing download speeds. Seemed worth knowing, so that we could replicate the successes in those areas. But the Speed Matters folks had this to say about that:

“Examining the map, most of those small pockets of dark red come from the results of a small number of tests. As such, depending on the time of the day or the type of connection that the user has speeds can fluctuate and provide a higher than anticipated result.”

Translation? Even those dark red areas are sitting much less pretty than they may seem to the casual observer. In case you needed a nudge toward solid depression on this issue.