When you move into a new home, or change your address, the first wave of mail you receive usually includes offers from internet providers. The choice of providers — if you have the means, or even have the choice to begin with— is an increasingly important one; the internet has become an essential pathway to information, a direct line to employment opportunities and services, and a tool for community building and participation.
While the Federal Communications Commission makes this kind of data on providers public, the format is neither accessible nor easy to visualize. Being able to quickly view and understand which internet options are available in a neighborhood, and see where there might be a lack of options, can not only help inform individual choices, but propel community-level and policy efforts to close the digital divide.
A New Tool for Pittsburgh
The City of Pittsburgh has released a new tool to visualize the availability of, and advertised speeds for, internet coverage throughout the city. Pittsburgh IPs, an internet coverage map built by Inez Khan, a Data Science intern in the Department of Innovation & Performance, is designed with an eye toward accessibility.
Users can begin by typing any city address into the address search bar of the coverage map. Once an address is entered, users are automatically brought to that location on the map. From there, they can see which providers are available in the surrounding area (the census block in which the address is located), as well as internet speeds from each provider and if the service is available to consumers, businesses, or both. In addition, users can click on the surrounding areas in the map to see what providers are available nearby.