Let's Get WV Connected! Broadband in West Virginia

Census Blocks/Tracts

Census Tracts/Blocks is a term that keeps coming up in Broadband conversations. We’ll post more about this later, but essentially, ISP’s are required to report coverage and service levels to the FCC on Form 477. The process is fundamentally flawed and has received lots of criticism. Here’s why: if as few as one person has Broadband service in a census block, then the entire block is considered served. Funding, grants, and other aspects of service provider’s existence is tied to where they provide service, so it is not a far stretch to see where a company might put service up one road to cover that census block, and ignore the rest due to population density and profitability.

If you want to download the data yourself, go to https://www.fcc.gov/general/census-blocks-state.

We’re concerned with Clay County, Roane County, and Calhoun County for the purposes of census blocks.

How Many Blocks Per County?

Roane has 1,356 Blocks, Calhoun has 998, and Clay has 1,111. For reference, West Virgina has 135,218.

Sample Tract Data

Here’s a sample of Calhoun County. The columns are:

State, County, Cnamelong, Tract, Tractname, Block, Tract Code, Block Code

5413Calhoun County9626009626101754013962600540139626001017
5413Calhoun County9626009626101854013962600540139626001018
5413Calhoun County9626009626101954013962600540139626001019
5413Calhoun County9626009626102054013962600540139626001020
5413Calhoun County9626009626102154013962600540139626001021
5413Calhoun County9626009626102254013962600540139626001022
5413Calhoun County9626009626102354013962600540139626001023
5413Calhoun County9626009626102454013962600540139626001024
5413Calhoun County9626009626102554013962600540139626001025
5413Calhoun County9626009626102654013962600540139626001026
5413Calhoun County9626009626102754013962600540139626001027
5413Calhoun County9626009626102854013962600540139626001028

According to Census.gov, Census blocks are:

  • Statistical areas bounded by visible features such as roads, streams, and railroad tracks, and by nonvisible boundaries such as property lines, city, township, school district, county limits and short line-of-sight extensions of roads.
  • The building blocks for all geographic boundaries the Census Bureau tabulates data for, such as tracts, places, and American Indian Reservations.
  • Generally small in area. In a city, a census block looks like a city block bounded on all sides by streets. Census blocks in suburban and rural areas may be large, irregular, and bounded by a variety of features, such as roads, streams, and transmission lines. In remote areas, census blocks may encompass hundreds of square miles.
  • A wall-to-wall coverage across the entire territory of the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas.
  • Numbered uniquely with a four-digit census block number ranging from 0000 to 9999 nesting within each census tract, which nest within state and county. The first digit of the census block number identifies the block group. Block numbers beginning with a zero (in Block Group 0) are associated with water-only areas.
  • Delineated by the U.S. Census Bureau once every ten years. An automated computer process looks for all visible and nonvisible features in our geographic database (MAF/TIGER) that should be a block boundary and creates a block each time those features create a polygon.
  • The smallest level of geography you can get basic demographic data for, such as total population by age, sex, and race.

From an article by Katy Rossiter, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2011/07/what-are-census-blocks.html