Who We Are
The X-Lab at Penn State University is a non-profit tech policy think tank dedicated to developing tech talent, practices, and peer-reviewed research methodologies in the field of broadband data collection, analysis, and visualization. Since 2006, X-Lab’s team has developed many of the methods and technologies that have become de facto standards in the broadband mapping industry.
The X-Lab Consortium consists of broadband mapping and digital equity experts from: Penn State University (including the Pioneers Chair in Telecommunications, and the Palmer Chair in Telecommunications, Washington State University (Assistant Director of Digital Equity and Broadband Programs), the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (Senior GIS (Geographic Information System) Analyst for the Community Broadband Networks initiative), the University of Chicago (Director of the Internet Equity Initiative), as well as industry partners (including the founders of Exactly Labs, Q8P Consulting, and Works Public).
The X-Lab Consortium is Different
As digital equity practitioners, we put people first.
The X-Lab team are not only accomplished mapping and technical experts, but also broadband implementers and digital equity practitioners. The project lead oversaw the creation of the Digital Stewards pedagogy that was the foundation for today’s Digital Navigators, and has been at the forefront of fighting for digital justice and Internet Freedom across the U.S., in partnership with dozens of Tribal and rural partners, and around the globe.
We believe that thoughtful and easy-to-use digital platforms – along with a strong training curriculum to understand how to leverage them – are a key form of empowerment. Our current broadband mapping projects, BroadbandMapping.com, RadarToolkit.com, and Internet Xplorer, started from the idea that commercial mapping software and broadband analysis tools are often inaccessible to the very constituencies who need this information most. We started with a needs assessment of how people without advanced GIS knowledge understand and use mapping resources, and built cutting-edge spatial tools and visualization platforms from the ground up that are powerful enough for federal agencies and state broadband offices to use in their executive decision-making, yet intuitive enough to demonstrate at a local town hall meeting.
Free, open-technology stacks, and open-access data
We believe that technology should empower the people who use it. This belief drives our commitment to leveraging, supporting, and reinvesting in the open-source and open-data communities. All of our products are powered by open-source code (collaboratively-developed computer software under a license that grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code) and open-access data.
The products we develop are free, open-source, and peer-reviewed by broadband researchers and policy experts. Prior to creating X-Lab in 2014, X-Lab’s director created the Open Technology Institute, a DC-based public interest technology policy think tank; the Open Technology Fund, one of the foremost funders of open-source privacy-enhancing and and anti-surveillance technologies; and Measurement Lab, the largest repository of open broadband measurement data on the planet. X-Lab’s prior work and commitment to open technology are second to none in this sector.
We focus on impact, not profit
The X-Lab is a 501(c)3 non-profit entity whose mission and current initiatives directly align with the deliverables Connect Humanity is requesting. Our application budget represents a “negative profit” proposition – with X-Lab committing additional internal resources to support this initiative. In essence, the X-Lab team sees the proposed work as essential to supporting digital equity, and has secured third-party funding that will be combined with the requested budget to develop more advanced features and resources that have already been prototyped, but not previously integrated into a comprehensive public resource.