When my colleague, Katherine, rang me up from a meeting to ask me what Service Providers offered Internet in Loudoun County VA, I got her an answer in 30 minutes – with advertised upload and download speed, number of census blocks served, and technology.  I tossed in 6 months of speed test results and a couple of maps.  The trickiest part was figuring out how to spell Loudoun. Who expected ou and ou with two different sounds?

My amazing new data super-power is the I3 Connectivity Explorer, created by Bob Ballance, a data guru, software designer, and principal at The Center for Internet As Infrastructure, LLC. The I3 Connectivity Explorer provides a local view of national data needed to understand and improve broadband connectivity. I have looked at this data on the FCC websites, the US. Census Fact Finder, and other commercial and nonprofit sites. I was worked with graduate information science students to create new visualizations.  Nothing compares to I3 for accessibility and ease.

The core data set is the FCC Form 477 data on wireline, fixed wireless, and wireless broadband deployment – which includes service providers by census block, with technology, advertised or committed upload and download speeds.  Since advertised speeds came sometimes overstate delivered speeds, Bob also charts M-Lab speed tests for 6 months and broadband subscription information.  He layers in Census data on income, poverty, density, ethnicity; and information on geography, topology, and economic impact.

This tool is useful and just plain fun to work with.  Whenever I have a broadband question, I open up I3 and explore. What surprises me if that I see a different story for every region that I look at.  Sometimes, I see a big gap between advertised speeds and median speed tests – which makes me wonder if perhaps 100M download is not typical for DSL in this area (ya think?)  Sometimes, I see good coverage downtown but empty census blocks around the downtown area and I wonder how those farms will ever do precision agriculture or how those community can attract vacationers or people who want to work from home.  Sometimes, it’s an enthusiastic fixed wireless provider that “could” provider service in 2000 census blocks but clearly doesn’t, won’t, and couldn’t.  But there are promising discoveries too – a provider we didn’t know about, a fiber drop in the area, someone who might do more if approached with the right offer.

Go to https://i3cex.internet-is-infrastructure.org/ and request an account. Bob will approve your account and you can explore.  Tell Bob what you think or add a comment here.  Maybe I3 will be your new data super-power too!


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