The collection, creation, management, analysis, and visualization of spatial data are critical components of the R2B2 project. Many of the project’s research topics and questions are explicitly spatial in nature. Some examples include: the discrepancies of internet access between rural and urban Ontario; communities lacking high-speed or ultra-high speed broadband connectivity; and variability in the economic outcomes of broadband use across the region. To explore these issues properly, broadband infrastructure and access levels must be mapped.
R2B2 works with geospatial broadband infrastructure data obtained from public sources as well as under non-disclosure agreements from telecom service providers (TSPs). The data includes line features that represent the location of fibre and copper broadband infrastructure, and point features that identify the location of facilities such as tower, central offices, POPs, and data centres. Collecting geospatial infrastructure data is an absolute necessity when trying to identify the gaps in broadband infrastructure. For example the served areas for the SWIFT region are visualized here.
Survey responses from residents, businesses, and MUSH sector organizations (Municipalities, Utilities, Schools, and Hospitals) are another critical geospatial data resource. For example, municipal members of SWIFT provide information on internet speed and usage. R2B2 uses aggregate information to compare connectivity within and across the region.
These datasets continue to grow over time, and the R2B2 GIS database is supplemented with additional secondary datasets, such as census layers, road networks, and property parcel data. These additional datasets are important assets for mapping applications and for analysing against the broadband data within a GIS.
Over time, it is intended that aggregate data will be shared by our research partners, such as SWIFT, with their public sector members. Data stewardship involves secure processes of aggregation and anonymization before information can be disseminated. R2B2 experiments with different visualizations of data and tools such as a publicly available web map that uses aggregated data. In the future, keeping data alive and visualizing it for evidence-based decision-making are key ways in which R2B2 and its partners can fill gaps in broadband connectivity within southwestern Ontario.