Operational Excellence in Federal Spectrum Management

December 15, 2014 by NTIA

This blog was cross posted on the Commerce.gov website.

One of the core functions of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is to manage federal uses of wireless spectrum to make the most efficient use of this precious resource. It’s complex, technical work performed by a team of resourceful engineers who labor behind the scenes to ensure that federal agencies have the radio spectrum they need to perform all sorts of mission-critical functions.

For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration relies on spectrum to safely navigate planes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration depends on spectrum to communicate with weather satellites tracking storms. And the Pentagon uses spectrum to operate everything from radar systems to weapons systems.

NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management makes this possible. And while the office has performed this vital mission for years, it’s a task that is taking on added urgency and facing mounting pressure amid skyrocketing commercial-sector demand for spectrum to fuel the explosive growth of wireless broadband.

The wild popularity of iPhones, Android devices and other mobile gadgets of all sorts – which consumers are using to upload picture to Facebook, watch videos on YouTube and devour other multimedia content – is driving unprecedented demand for bandwidth for licensed and unlicensed commercial wireless services.

To balance the growing need for spectrum among commercial users and federal agencies alike, NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management is collaborating with the Federal Communications Commission to identify spectrum that can potentially be repurposed for commercial use and to promote spectrum sharing across the public and private sectors. Against this backdrop, NTIA’s spectrum engineers are working closely with federal agencies to ensure that they are using their assigned frequencies as efficiently as possible.

The Public Computer Center at the College of Menominee Nation, Wisconsin

November 28, 2014 by NTIA

The Public Computer Center at the College of Menominee Nations, WisconsinWhile Native American Heritage Month is celebrated just once a year in November, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been serving America’s Tribal Nations effectively for many years through its grant programs. 

One such grant of $3.4 million was made in 2010 to the College of Menominee Nation (the College) through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This Public Computer Center (PCC) project included the construction of a new 10,000 square foot campus Technology Center and upgrades of broadband capacity to serve the more than 5,000 members of the Menominee Tribe, who live in one of Wisconsin’s more rural and economically disadvantaged areas. According to Ron Jurgens, Institutional Research Director for the college, the new facility continues to draw people from the reservation and neighboring counties to use the technology, pursue their educational goals, and take advantage of 100 megabit Internet service.  In fact, the center is so popular that the county board voted to relocate the public library on the college campus.  

Spotlight on NTIA: Joel Dumke, Electronics Engineer, Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

November 25, 2014 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.

Joel DumkeJoel Dumke works on cutting-edge research that may help emergency first responders to better use video to help save lives. Dumke, an electronics engineer at NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) in Boulder, Colo., leads a team that is developing requirements and minimum standards for video systems that can be used by public safety.

For example, he noted that firemen can learn a lot about what is burning in a fire by watching video and observing the color, speed and location of the smoke.

One of his team’s current projects is focused on finding the right compression levels for transmitting video. Because video can eat up a lot of bandwidth, Dumke’s team is looking for ways to compress video signals while still preserving the video quality. It’s a delicate balance.  “If you don’t compress it enough it consumes too many resources and if you compress it too much it becomes useless,” he said. “It’s interesting to find the sweet spot where it works well.”

Dumke joined ITS more than four years ago after graduating from Purdue University with a doctorate in electrical engineering. He said he was attracted to his current job at ITS because it would allow him to continue some of the video work he pursued at Purdue, while also satisfying his interest in public service and work that would benefit the country.

NTIA Training Helps Federal Spectrum Managers

November 17, 2014 by NTIA

Agencies across the federal government use spectrum to perform critical functions from predicting the weather to air traffic control. But they may not be as familiar with NTIA’s role in this process and how we ensure agencies have the airwaves they need to carry out critical missions for the American people.

NTIA manages the federal government's use of spectrum, ensuring that the United States’ domestic and international spectrum needs are met while making efficient use of this limited resource. As part of this effort, twice a year we offer training in the latest tools, techniques, trends and issues to federal spectrum managers to better meet the requirements of their job.

NTIA’s Edward Drocella meets with participants at the most recent spectrum training session
NTIA’s Edward Drocella meets with participants at the most recent spectrum training session. (click for large version)

Earlier this month, we wrapped up our latest introductory-level course. It provided participants with information on the fundamentals of spectrum management, a basic technical overview of spectrum principles and terminology as well as the NTIA system and equipment certification and frequency assignment processes and procedures. It also offered hands-on demonstrations of NTIA’s spectrum management software tools and spectrum analysis modeling software.

Celebrating the Internet Every Day

October 29, 2014 by NTIA

Today we are celebrating International Internet Day, which marks the first message ever sent over the Internet 45 years ago. At NTIA, one of our main jobs every day is to maximize the societal benefits made possible by the Internet through policies and efforts that expand Internet availability and adoption.

To help us in this work, it is important to know how Americans are using and accessing the Internet. Earlier this month, NTIA released the latest installment of our Digital Nation report series, which measures American computer and Internet use. The latest data, which is based on a survey of 53,000 households collected for NTIA by the Census Bureau in October 2012, demonstrated not only how ingrained the Internet has become in Americans’ lives but that we are now a digital nation on the go. The report found:


Spotlight on NTIA: Lynn Chadwick, Federal Program Officer, State Broadband Initiative

October 03, 2014 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.

You could say Lynn Chadwick’s career has come full circle.

After spending the early part of her career in community radio, she found herself in 2001 once again working with community telecommunications – this time  from the federal perspective when she began working at NTIA first in the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP). Now, working as a federal program officer for NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative (SBI), Chadwick’s focus is on helping states use broadband technology to better compete in the digital economy and assist states in gathering data twice a year on the availability of broadband in their communities.

Chadwick is pictured while visiting an exhibition in London of the English artist Lynn Chadwick
Chadwick is pictured while visiting an exhibition in
London of the English artist Lynn Chadwick.

NTIA Brings a Comprehensive Approach to Community Broadband

September 11, 2014 by NTIA

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) last week hosted the second in a series of stakeholder workshops as we launch a new initiative to leverage the success of our Recovery Act broadband grant programs and support communities nationwide seeking to build their broadband capacity.

Over the past five years, NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and State Broadband Initiative have invested more than $4 billion in network infrastructure, public computer centers, digital inclusion projects and broadband mapping. These programs have taught us that closing the digital divide is a multi-pronged challenge that demands a comprehensive, holistic approach.

Addressing existing gaps requires not only network availability and robust bandwidth, but also affordable computer equipment and monthly service, effective training and useful applications. It also requires collaboration among many stakeholders, including local, state and federal officials, community leaders, industry executives, private foundations and broadband advocates.

Last week’s workshop, held in Minneapolis, brought together more than 100 stakeholders for a series of informative panel discussions, presentations and networking opportunities. Participants also met with NTIA staff, who will be providing guidance, technical assistance, funding leads and connections to help communities expand broadband access and adoption.

The agenda featured speakers from a number of successful broadband projects in the Upper Midwest, including projects funded by NTIA in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and North Dakota.

Spotlight on NTIA: Robert Denny, electronics engineer in the International Spectrum Policy Division, Office of Spectrum Management

September 02, 2014 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.

Robert DennyRobert Denny was no stranger to NTIA when he finally decided to come to work here four months ago as an electronics engineer in the Office of Spectrum Management’s International Spectrum Policy Division.

Prior to joining NTIA, Denny spent three years at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, where he worked on many of the same issues he now deals with at NTIA.

Denny advocates for the U.S. position on issues related to international radio regulation at the International Telecommunication Union. But even before he came to the federal government, Denny’s work in the private sector aligned with many of NTIA’s issues.

He worked as a consulting engineer for several broadcasting and wireless companies. “Over the years, I had a lot of contacts with people at NTIA,” he says, adding that when he landed at NOAA, his NTIA colleagues urged him to apply whenever there were openings at the agency. “It became apparent that we had a lot in common and [were] a good match,” Denny notes.

Denny’s work requires him to travel to Geneva several times a year, but he doesn’t mind the travel. He said he did a lot more traveling as a consultant, sometimes spending as much as a quarter of his time on the road.

Building Community Broadband in the Upper Midwest

August 04, 2014 by Douglas Kinkoph, Acting Associate Administrator, Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications

Today, we are announcing the second in a series of workshops to share lessons we have learned from our broadband grants programs with communities nationwide seeking to build their broadband capacity.

NTIA Broadband Program Supports Workforce Preparation Across the United States

August 01, 2014 by Laura Breeden, program director for public computing and broadband adoption

“It’s been great seeing people come back and say, ‘I’ve been able to get a job,’ after we helped them with sprucing up their résumé and applying for jobs online.”  - PCC Staff Member, Las Vegas Urban League

“Without this computer lab, we would not be getting people the jobs that we’re getting them. It’s just a great thing.”  - Staff Member, Workforce West Virginia

Last week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act aimed at creating a more flexible and responsive system of workforce development to meet the needs of employers looking to fill 21st century jobs. Ensuring U.S. workers are able to compete and succeed is a key priority at the U.S. Commerce Department. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker served on a task force with Vice President Biden that recently released a report looking at solutions for making the nation’s workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated and effective.