Decision Making and Hard Lessons Learned – Run with What You’ve Got

Everyone in this day and age should understand the need for broadband communications. Maps are now playing a big role toward helping policy makers solve the access challenge.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced plans to provide support for eligible carriers using something called the Mobility Fund.  They produced a nationwide map of eligible areas linked here.  The overall goal is to improve 3G or better mobile coverage using an FCC auction process.  Auction 901 will offer up to $300 million in one-time Mobility Fund Phase I support to carriers that commit to provide 3G or better mobile voice and broadband services in areas where such services are unavailable. A winning bidder will be required either to deploy services meeting the Commission’s requirements for 3G service within two years or 4G service within three years after the date on which it is authorized to receive support, and will be subject to other obligations, including coverage and voice and data roaming requirements.

Here at the AGIO we have the occasional moment to conduct a little analysis here or there and so we downloaded the Mobility Fund areas from the FCC to see what the data revealed in Arkansas.  As luck would have it there are several areas in the state that are eligible.  We wanted to know what areas might be the most profitable based on a population density.  Since these areas in Arkansas are predominantly rural we chose the Address Point file as an overlay and then ran a density analysis.  The results show the strongest eligible density in southeast Madison County.

Darkest areas may be the best potential.

You should be saying this map looks wrong.  And, you’d be right.  The map is wrong, or at least incomplete. The density analytic was based only on address points.  You can see large eligibility areas in Polk County with zero density.  You could look at this problem using Census Blocks and population data but a telecommunication business may need more detail from the numbers when deciding where and how to locate their equipment.  They might also like to examine this using tax parcel data.

What’s the point of this article?  Decision makers like stock car racers will run with what they’ve got.  In the case of business decision making about broadband they might choose to bid on southeast Madison County.  Based on the data available it shows that area might have the best potential for more customers.  Arkansas has a solid reputation for making its data public.  The counties not shaded in the eligibility analysis have not finished creating their address point data yet.  We’ll get it publish when they do.  Let’s all work together to continue our state’s competitive position by making our GIS data accessible.  Let’s not learn the hard lesson some other places have learned who kept their GIS data behind a locked door.

NOTE:  You REALLY should not use this map to make a business decision.  But maybe you should?

Full disclosure: Our Director is from Madison County, he’s biased.  We thought you should know.