NTIA Blog

Promoting Broadband Across the Federal Government

March 24, 2015 by NTIA

This blog is cross posted on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s blog

At the U.S. Department of Commerce, we have witnessed first-hand the power of broadband to drive economic growth and innovation, open up new employment opportunities for Americans across the income spectrum and expand access to everything from education to healthcare to government services.

That’s why we see investing in broadband – and digital inclusion – as a critical part of our ongoing push to sustain the economic recovery and build the critical infrastructure that our nation needs to remain competitive in the 21st century. A top priority of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is to work with communities across the country to ensure that all their citizens have access to high-speed Internet connectivity and the skills to use it to improve their lives.

Building on the Administration’s efforts to close the digital divide, the White House today announced a new interagency working group – called the Broadband Opportunity Council – to promote broadband investment and coordinate broadband policy across the federal government. The council will include representatives from 25 federal agencies and departments, and will be co-chaired by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture. NTIA will spearhead work on the new program for the Commerce Department.

The Broadband Opportunity Council is the latest initiative in the Administration’s push to increase investment in our nation’s critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, ports, drinking water and sewer systems and, of course, broadband networks.

National Broadband Map has Helped Chart Broadband Evolution

March 23, 2015 by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative
Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

When NTIA launched the National Broadband Map in 2011, American consumers and businesses had few places to turn to when trying to determine who offered broadband in their communities. The National Broadband Map has not only filled that void but has helped detail the evolution of broadband in the United States as providers upgrade or expand their networks to meet the growing demand for faster broadband.

For the last five years, each state, territory and the District of Columbia has collected the broadband availability data that powers the National Broadband Map with the help of grants funded by NTIA through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Every six months, states have submitted to NTIA data compiled from information gathered from broadband providers, public and commercial data, consumers and local governments. Today, we are releasing updated broadband map data, current as of June 30, 2014.

Broadband Availability Demographics  map
This map displays availability of higher broadband speeds across demographic characteristics

Spotlight on NTIA: Chris Hemmerlein, Telecommunications Policy Specialist, Office of International Affairs

March 03, 2015 by NTIA

This post is part of our “Spotlight on NTIA” blog series, which is highlighting the work that NTIA employees are doing to advance NTIA’s mission of promoting broadband adoption, finding spectrum to meet the growing demand for wireless technologies, and ensuring the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.

Chris Hemmerlein says he feels fortunate to have a job that he enjoys so much. Hemmerlein, a telecommunications policy specialist in the Office of International Affairs, handles Asia- and United Nations-related issues for NTIA.

Chris Hemmerlein
Source: International Telecommunication Union

After spending a year teaching English in Japan and studying in Australia as an undergraduate student, Hemmerlein realized his true calling was international affairs. Hemmerlein would go on to earn a Master’s Degree in international relations at the University of California at San Diego.

Hemmerlein found his way to NTIA five years ago after landing a position with the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program following graduate school. He was hired in NTIA’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) as part of his fellowship. In addition to landing a full-time job, the fellowship also gave him the chance to spend five months in Paris through a rotation at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where he represented NTIA during the development of the Principles for Internet Policy Making.

Stakeholders Continue Historic Work on Internet DNS Transition at ICANN Singapore Meeting

February 19, 2015 by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling

Last week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held its 52nd meeting in Singapore, where the global multistakeholder community continued progress on a proposal to transition the United States role related to the Internet Domain Name System.

I was pleased to see the amount of energy and professionalism exhibited by the nearly 1800 participants at the ICANN meeting. The Internet’s stakeholders are driving this transition and are demonstrating that businesses, technical experts, and civil society groups are best equipped to set the future direction of the Internet.  Under this multistakeholder model, no one party can control the Internet or impose its will. And that’s what’s enabled the Internet to flourish and evolve into this global medium that has torn down barriers to free speech and fueled economic growth and innovation.

 It is so important that we get this transition right. If it doesn’t take place, we will embolden authoritarian regimes to seek greater government control of the Internet or to threaten to fragment the Internet, which would result in a global patchwork of regulations and rules that stifle the free flow of information.

Now that we are nearing the one-year anniversary of our announcement, it is important to take stock of where this transition process stands. Stakeholders have organized two major work streams to develop the overall plan:  one group is focused on the specifics of the IANA functions and the second is addressing questions of the overall accountability of ICANN to the global community of Internet stakeholders. 

Expanding the Benefits of Broadband in Mississippi

February 11, 2015 by NTIA

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s BroadbandUSA team convened a productive workshop in Jackson, Miss., last week to explore ways to close the digital divide in a state that continues to expand broadband connectivity and adoption.

The event was the second in a series of regional workshops that NTIA is hosting across the country as part of its new BroadbandUSA program, which is helping communities improve local broadband capacity and utilization.

The new initiative – highlighted by President Obama last month – builds on lessons learned and best practices from NTIA’s successful broadband grant programs, which invested more than $4 billion in network infrastructure, public computer centers, digital literacy training and broadband mapping. BroadbandUSA provides resources – including technical assistance, toolkits and guides – to help communities assess local broadband needs, engage stakeholders, explore business models, evaluate financing options and attract private-sector investment.

The Mississippi workshop - presented in cooperation with the non-profit Connect MS and the Mississippi Economic Development Council – drew panelists and attendees from across the Gulf Region. But much of the focus was on Mississippi, which in 2009 created a statewide taskforce to coordinate efforts on broadband policy.

Supporting Wireless Innovation Through a “Model City”

February 10, 2015 by NTIA

Broadband wireless tower photoThe United States is fast becoming a wireless nation. The demand for wireless devices in all sectors of our lives – from smartphones to smart utility meters – is driving the exploding demand for access to spectrum. By 2019, Cisco predicts there will be a seven-fold increase in data traffic. 

The Obama administration has been working hard to meet this demand, pledging to make 500 megahertz of additional spectrum available for mobile broadband by 2020. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which manages the federal government’s use of spectrum, has been working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other federal agencies to make more federal spectrum available for commercial use. At the same time, we are working to balance the needs of federal agencies that rely on spectrum to perform a wide range of mission-critical functions – from communicating with weather satellites, to navigating passenger planes and protecting our nation’s borders. 

Meeting the sky-rocketing demand for wireless technologies has required new approaches to freeing up spectrum beyond the traditional model of clearing spectrum for exclusive commercial use. Spectrum sharing between federal and nonfederal users also has to be part of the solution.

AWS-3 Auction Highlights New Approach to Spectrum Policy

January 29, 2015 by NTIA

By Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA administrator, and Alexander Macgillivray, U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

The most successful auction of radio spectrum so far came to a close today, drawing nearly $45 billion in bids for 65 megahertz of spectrum. While clearly a ringing financial success, the AWS-3 auction also is an important milestone in the Obama administration’s efforts to meet the President’s goal of making available 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband by 2020.

The success of the auction, conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was made possible in part by an unprecedented level of collaboration between NTIA, affected federal agencies, wireless industry representatives, the FCC, and Congress.

The auction also represents a paradigm shift in our approach to making spectrum available for commercial wireless providers. In many instances, the bands that were auctioned will require the clearing of incumbent federal users from these bands; while in other instances, nonfederal entrants will be required to share spectrum with incumbent federal agencies indefinitely. As NTIA continues to review spectrum bands for reallocation, spectrum sharing is becoming the new reality. Out of necessity, where it is cost prohibitive, takes too long to relocate incumbent users, or where comparable spectrum is not available to ensure continuity of critical federal government functions, we must move beyond the traditional approach of clearing federal users from spectrum in order to auction it to the private sector for its exclusive use.

NTIA Employees Win Departmental Awards for Outstanding Work

January 27, 2015 by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling

Today, I’m happy to recognize a number of NTIA employees who received Department of Commerce Gold and Silver awards for their outstanding contributions. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews presented the awards at a special ceremony today.

We should all take pride in the important work we do at NTIA.  We are working hard day-to-day to ensure that the Internet remains an engine for economic growth and innovation;  to promote broadband access and adoption so that no one is left behind in the digital revolution;  and to manage the federal government’s use of spectrum, helping federal and commercial entities alike find new spectrum sharing opportunities. I am particularly pleased that so much of our work is being recognized by the Department as meeting the very high standards for Gold and Silver Medals. Congratulations to these fine public servants.

Here are the NTIA honorees:

Gold Medal Award winners:

John Verdi (Office of Policy Analysis and Development (OPAD)) – John received an individual Gold Medal in recognition for his excellence in successfully leading the first domestic multistakeholder privacy policy process. The effort was in support of the White House's Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy, and showcased the viability of multistakeholder processes for Internet policymaking. Companies have adopted or are beginning to implement the code of conduct for mobile app transparency, which has increased confidence in the multistakeholder approach and reinforced the Department's commitment to consumer privacy.

NTIA Announces BroadbandUSA Effort to Assist Communities with Broadband Plans

January 14, 2015 by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling

Over the past five years, we at NTIA have seen first-hand through our broadband grant program the power of broadband to transform lives and impact communities.  Broadband has become a cornerstone of economic growth, providing Americans the tools they need to participate in the rapidly growing digital economy.

NTIA invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption.  Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress.  Our grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries.  Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than four million people and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.  An independent study released by NTIA today shows that these grants are projected to increase economic output by as much as $21 billion annually.

But there’s more work to be done. Investing in broadband is a matter of basic equity.  Americans who do not have access to the Internet are increasingly cut off from job opportunities, educational resources, healthcare information and even government services.  Communities that do not have high-speed infrastructure are increasingly at a disadvantage in attracting new businesses and new jobs and competing in today’s knowledge-based economy. Since 2009, broadband adoption has increased more than 12 percent in the United States and stands at 72 percent according to our latest reported data.  That is a healthy growth rate but it still means that almost a quarter of U.S. households are not online at home.  

Promoting Spectrum Sharing In the Wireless Broadband Era

January 09, 2015 by NTIA

In the summer of 2010 -- just three years after the introduction of the iPhone -- President Obama called on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to collaborate with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to free up critical radio spectrum to fuel the breakneck growth of the wireless broadband market. Today, this directive is more pressing than ever, with the wild popularity of smartphones and tablets driving unprecedented commercial demand for mobile bandwidth.

Identifying the spectrum to keep up is a top priority for NTIA, which manages federal spectrum usage. And promoting spectrum sharing across the public and private sectors is an important key to achieving this goal.

At NTIA, we recognize that spectrum is the lifeblood of the mobile broadband revolution. We are committed to ensuring the industry has the bandwidth it needs to continue to innovate and thrive.

But we face an important balancing act since federal agencies also rely on this precious and finite resource to perform all sorts of mission-critical functions – from communicating with weather satellites (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to navigating passenger planes (Federal Aviation Administration) to operating weapons systems (Defense Department).

Working in consultation with the FCC, which oversees commercial and other non-federal spectrum uses, NTIA has made good progress toward President Obama’s target of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for licensed and unlicensed wireless broadband services by 2020.

Through fiscal year 2014, NTIA had formally recommended or otherwise identified 335 megahertz of spectrum for potential reallocation. That includes spectrum in the 1695-1710 and 1755-1780 bands auctioned off in the FCC’s successful AWS-3 auction.