Where high-speed broadband is offered in your town

Data is a big part of the challenge in assessing Maine’s broadband needs. But a federal grant funded a data set handed to state officials last fall, giving a street-by-street look at broadband speeds in Maine.

The data, reflecting speeds as of September 2014, shows advertised broadband speeds. And you can search for your town in the view below (perhaps humorously: note the usage instructions to prevent some lag time in processing what is a rather large data set). Bangor’s displayed below.

The broadband data collected for every street in the state is part of the effort supported by a $5 million grant the ConnectME Authority won to identify served and unserved areas of the state.

The data represented above was sent to the ConnectME Authority in October, compiled and managed by the James W. Sewall company, which (quite promptly) responded to my request for the data sets backing their map galleries that are online here.

I should mention, that includes a separate mapping tool where you can search for your address and find more information about the specific providers available.

While the data is voluminous and gives a picture of where there’s the most need for boosting Internet speeds (very much a live issue in Maine this year), there are still some challenges in collecting this data.

Randy Claar, the project manager in charge of the ConnectME data at Sewall, said the company is now working on refining the speed data for each street, providing a raw number rather than speed tiers used by the Federal Communications Commission.

But one dimension of the data set that’s lacking is solid accounting for how many homes or businesses are impacted by the speeds on a given street. Sewall’s data set includes the start and ending addresses for each street, from which you can extrapolate a number of structures, but Claar said that information needs — and is getting — refinement.

“You may have a house at each end of the street, but the range is from 2 to 100 on one side and 1-99 on the other,” Claar said. “So, you quickly recognize that the address ranges are kind of placeholders or theoretical address locations.”

He said the Maine Office of GIS is working on a data set that would include a point for each building or house and the associated addresses.

And as far as getting a true picture of pockets of the state where limited broadband expansion funds can be directed, Claar said, is the ultimate goal of Phil Lindley, head of the ConnectME Authority.

“That’s the Nirvana or the Holy Grail of what Phil Lindley set out to do when we started to work with him about five years ago,” Claar said.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.