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What Data Do You Need for Broadband Planning?

Data collection and data analysis can be a little overwhelming for communities and organizations that are engaged in all sorts of Community Economic Development Planning, including community broadband planning. The goal of this article is to share some of the public resources that are available to you.

The resources listed in this article are not exhaustive – there are a lot of available sources of data. Contact your local support organization – Extension, Regional Economic Development Organization, Regional Planning Commissions to help answer questions and as you move forward in collecting and analyzing this data as part of your planning processes.

This article covers three primary categories of data.

  • Broadband availability
  • Covered Populations (digital equity)
  • Community, economic, and workforce development

Broadband Availability Data

Federal Communications Commission National Broadband Map

  • Summarizes coverage by  States, Counties, Congressional Districts, Census Places, Tribal Areas and Metro Areas (Does not include Towns, School Districts or other geographies that may be involved in broadband planning);​
  • Allows users to check (and challenge) availability at an address;​
  • Ability to filter access by speed, technology and year;​
  • Summarizes and visualizes data using the H3 Hexagonal Grid System – Great for indexing and spatial analysis; However, visualizations suffer from the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (Scale Dependent);
map of United States showing broadband coverage areas in shades of blue

Wisconsin Broadband Planning Map (Beta) Wisconsin Broadband Office, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin 

  • Similar to the national broadband map, depicts access using the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Data Collection; ​
  • In addition to H3 Hexagons, visualizes connectivity summaries by standard geographies;​
  • Depicts areas where broadband expansion funding has already been committed;​
  • Includes summary map layers from internet speed tests;​
  • Additional information on individual provider service areas;​
  • Allows maps to be exported/printed;​
  • Many other resources are available through the PSC Broadband Office.​
A screenshot of the Wisconsin Broadband Planning Map showing a small town in Wisconsin

Digital Equity Act – Covered Populations

Covered Populations, as defined by the Digital Equity Act of 2021, have historically experienced lower rates of computer and internet use. ​

The covered populations named in the legislation include:

  • Households with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level;​
  • Aging individuals, 60 years of age or older;​
  • Incarcerated individuals except those in Federal correctional facilities;​
  • Veterans;
  • Individuals with disabilities;​
  • Individuals with a language barrier, including English learners and those with low levels of literacy;​
  • Members of racial or ethnic minority groups;​
  • Individuals who primarily reside in a rural area;​

Covered Population Data from the Census Bureau and NTIA

Map of Wisconsin from the Digital Equity Act Population Viewer showing Wisconsin Counties in varied levels of blue depending on their access to computers or broadband

Covered Population Data from American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census

  • Data on population and housing characteristics;​
  • Available by different geographic levels (county, place, census tract, school districts, etc.);​
  • Decennial Census Data and 1-Year and 5-Year Estimates through the ACS;​
  • ACS Estimates include margins of error;​
  • APIs are available for data extraction;​
  • Census Academy has many training resources.
Map of United States made up of people graphics in various shades of blue with 'Census 2020' label over the center of the US

Data Sources by Covered Population

Data Sources by Covered Population

Covered PopulationSources of Data​ – American Community Survey and Census Data can be accessed at
Households and individuals below poverty levelAmerican Community Survey Table S1701 – Poverty Status in the Last 12 Months;

Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program;​
Aging individualsAmerican Community Survey Table S0101 – Age and Sex;

2020 Decennial Census Table DP1 – General Demographic Characteristics;
Incarcerated individualsAmerican Community Survey Table S2603 – Characteristics of the Group Quarters Population by Group Quarters Type;

2020 Decennial Census Table P18 – Group Quarters Population by Sex By Age by Major Group Quarters Type

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Federal Bureau of Prisons
VeteransAmerican Community Survey Table S2101 – Veteran Status;
Individuals with DisabilitiesAmerican Community Survey Table S1810 – Disability Characteristics;

Wisconsin Aging and Disability Resource Centers
Individuals with a language barrier, including English learners and those with low levels of literacy;American Community Survey Table S1601 – Language Spoken At Home

American Community Survey Table  B16001 – Language Spoken at Home by Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over

PIAAC State and County Small Area Estimates of Adult Skills
Members of Racial or Ethnic Minority GroupsDecennial Census Table DP1 – Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics

American Community Survey Table DP05 – ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates
Rural PopulationDecennial Census Table DP2 – Urban and Rural
Population without internet, broadband, computer deviceAmerican Community Survey Table S2801 – Types 0f Computers And Internet Subscriptions

American Community Survey Table S2802 – Types Of Internet Subscriptions By Selected Characteristics

Economic and Labor Force Data for Community Broadband Planning

​Economic and workforce data can be a useful tool for broadband planning. For example, you might use it during the planning process to:

  • Stimulate discussion;​
  • Identify potential partners and stakeholders;​
  • Affirm or challenge current perceptions;​
  • Identify local strengths and weaknesses;​
  • Recognize and prepare for change.​

There are a few things you’ll want to consider or keep in mind as you start sifting through all the available data:

  • You are looking for patterns, not a single answer;​
  • Be more concerned with trends than precision – what are the trends telling you?;
  • Focus more attention on comparing figures rather than ranking them.

As broadband becomes increasingly ubiquitous, its availability will become less of a community or regional comparative advantage.  ​

Instead, a community’s ability to adopt and leverage broadband for community, economic and workforce development will provide the greatest advantage.​

What Story do We Want to Tell?​​

What Types of Questions do we Want to Answer?

Census Bureau and NTIA ACCESS BROADBAND Dashboard

ACCESS BROADBAND Dashboard is intended for “policymakers and the public to assess how changes in broadband availability and adoption could influence local economies.”

Includes indicators in map and table formats such as: ​

  • Employment;​
  • Small business establishments;​
  • Wages and income;​
  • Poverty;​
  • Home values;​
  • Population change and migration;​
  • Educational attainment;​
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Bureau of Labor Data

Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (ES-202)Data on employment, wages, location quotients, number of establishments by industry.  Quarterly/Annual data by state and county starting with 1990.  Figures are based on UI filings.  Some data will be suppressed;​
Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)Monthly/Annual figures for U.S., Wisconsin, counties, metropolitan/micropolitan areas, certain cities, etc. ​
Occupation Employment Statistics (OES)Distributions of occupations and wages for nation, state and metropolitan areas ;
Industry-Occupational MatricesNational industry employment distributions by occupation (3, 4, and 5-digit NAICS codes)
Other State and National Data(mass layoffs and plant closings, productivity, alternate measures of unemployment, labor participation, etc.)​


Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (ES-202) – Data on employment, wages and number of establishments by industry.  Quarterly/Annual data by state and county starting with 1990. ​

Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) – Monthly/Annual figures for U.S., Wisconsin, counties, metropolitan/micropolitan areas, certain cities, etc. ​

Occupation Employment Statistics (OES) – Distributions of occupations and wages.

Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • Employment, income, population, gross domestic product, etc.;​
  • County datasets are available for the entire nation starting in 1969;
  • Also includes state, metro/non-metro and national level data;​
  • Resource for proprietor and farm employment.​

Proprietors and Business Ownership – Other Data Sources

Self-Employment IncomeAmerican Community Survey Table B19053: Self-employment Income in the Past 12 Months for Households
Business Formation StatisticsU.S. Census Bureau – BFS​​
Non-Employer StatisticsU.S. Census Bureau –
Annual Business Survey and Non-Employment Statistics by Demographics (NES-D)Annual Business Survey –

Non-Employment Statistics by Demographics

Using Workforce Data to Inform Broadband Strategies

The workforce data you choose to review for your planning process will depend on the needs of your community. Here are some examples of other types of strategies your broadband planning team might consider:

  • Talent attraction and retention initiatives;​
  • Assisting in the creation of career pathways and DACUMs;​
  • Creating opportunities for individuals facing barriers to employment (childcare, dislocated workers, veterans, etc.);​
  • Developing phased retirement programs and non-traditional schedules (flexible, seasonal, job sharing, etc.);
  • Capital improvement funds;​
  • Automation/computerization investment and transition planning/training;​
  • Placemaking and amenity development;​
  • Housing development;​
  • Knowledge transfer and reverse mentoring.

Adapted from National Digital Education Extension Team (2022)

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