Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling was honored today for his leadership on behalf of the Obama administration’s efforts to enact wireless deployment and public safety provisions in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. PCIA, The Wireless Infrastructure Association, and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) recognized Assistant Secretary Strickling and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for their work in helping to give first responders the 21st century tools they need to better respond to emergencies.
As part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Congress created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent entity within NTIA to help establish the nation’s first nationwide public safety broadband network. For too long, the public safety community has been hampered by a patchwork of incompatible networks. Once operational, this network will allow first responders to better access information while at the scene of an emergency or natural disaster, such as being able to obtain the blueprints to a burning building.
NTIA met the congressional deadline to stand up FirstNet by Aug. 20, 2012, and has been working closely with the FirstNet board since to begin planning for the network. In addition to helping FirstNet with administrative and other tasks, NTIA is also overseeing a new $135 million State and Local Implementation Grant Program. The program will help state, regional, tribal and local jurisdictions in their planning to ensure FirstNet meets their wireless public safety needs. NTIA began accepting applications for the program in February and plans to award grants by mid-July.
The following blog post originally appeared on the website of the United States Telecommunications and Training Institute (USTTI).
I am honored to offer the inaugural contribution to the United States Telecommunications and Training Institute (USTTI) blog. USTTI has been an important institution for cooperation and the mutual sharing of expertise to meet our shared challenges with respect to communications technology. The United States Government remains committed to this example of enhanced cooperation and the friendships and cooperation that result from USTTI programs.
Today the world’s citizens are benefitting from the growth and innovation of the Internet. The Internet has flourished because of the approach taken from its infancy to resolve technical and policy questions. Known as the multistakeholder process, it involves the full involvement of all stakeholders, consensus-based decision-making and operating in an open, transparent and accountable manner. The multistakeholder model has promoted freedom of expression, both online and off. It has ensured the Internet is a robust, open platform for innovation, investment, economic growth and the creation of wealth throughout the world, including in developing countries.
For these reasons, the United States Government is committed to the multistakeholder model as the appropriate process for addressing Internet policy and governance issues. We believe that the Internet’s decentralized, multistakeholder processes enable us all to benefit from the engagement of all interested parties. By encouraging the participation of industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments from around the globe, multistakeholder processes result in broader and more creative problem solving than traditional governmental approaches.
Closing the digital divide – and getting all Americans online – requires a multipronged approach. It’s not enough just to provide affordable computer equipment and access to broadband at a reasonable price. Just as important is digital literacy training to teach people how to use the Internet and take advantage of everything it has to offer.
That’s why NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has invested roughly $200 million in public computer centers that provide Internet access for those who don’t have it at home, and roughly $250 million in broadband adoption programs that cover everything from how to navigate the Web and set up an email account to how to post a resume online and conduct an online job search.
Today, we are pleased to spread the word about the launch of an important new effort to raise awareness of the benefits of digital literacy and promote programs working to ensure that all Americans can participate in our information-age society.
Connect2Compete, a non-profit seeking to close the digital divide, has teamed up with the Ad Council to kick off the “EveryoneOn, 3-21” Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign just in time for March 21, or 3/21.
A major goal of the new campaign is to help people stuck on the wrong side of the divide find free computer classes and other broadband training opportunities in their communities. The campaign includes a 1-800 number, a mobile text short code and a Website – www.EveryoneOn.org – that let users look up local class offerings, public computer centers and even WiFi hot spots. We expect this to help even more people find BTOP-funded computer centers and training programs across the country.
This article is cross-posted on the OSTP blog
The President’s strategy for expanding the capacity of high-speed wireless broadband services across the Nation may get a boost from a new Defense Department Initiative to fund research and development of innovative new approaches to spectrum sharing.
Wireless technology continues to drive innovation and productivity in the United States, fueling economic growth and creating jobs. By most measures, the United States leads the world in the development and deployment of cutting-edge wireless technologies. More subscribers to advanced 4G wireless broadband live in the United States than in the rest of the world combined. U.S. companies dominate the market for smartphone operating systems and online apps. And the wireless industry contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to America’s gross domestic product.
Building on U.S. leadership and promoting even greater economic growth requires that the Nation make ever more efficient use of spectrum, the airwaves on which wireless services ride. Consumers are demanding more spectrum for smartphones and tablets, as are stakeholders from other sectors of the economy and society, including healthcare, transportation, and education. Many critical Government services require spectrum as well, including air traffic control systems, wireless surveillance by law enforcement, weather monitoring, and military combat training. Ensuring adequate spectrum to support the expected growth in all of these commercial and non-commercial uses poses technical challenges and will require trade-offs.
As the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) nears completion, NTIA staff is continuing to work closely with our grantees to ensure that projects are wrapping up on time and within budget, delivering the promised broadband benefits to the communities they serve.
Ensuring projects meet their milestones and protecting taxpayer funds is of paramount importance to NTIA. Our staff performs extensive and diligent oversight and provides technical assistance to our recipients tailored to their needs. This oversight involves a significant level of effort, and requires our staff to sometimes take tough enforcement action to protect taxpayer funds.
NTIA oversees our projects in a number of ways. Staff remains in close and frequent contact with award recipients via regularly scheduled conference calls, email exchanges, drop-in calls on specific administrative or programmatic topics, and in-person conferences. These contacts serve as a means to reinforce the terms and conditions associated with each award and help ensure that NTIA quickly addresses challenges that arise. Additionally, recipients must report quarterly and annually to NTIA on key financial and programmatic activities. These reports are posted publicly and provide detailed information on progress in achieving program outcomes, use of funds, challenges faced, and expected future progress. Finally, NTIA conducts site visits to projects and has conducted over 150 oversight visits representing more than 94 percent of BTOP federal award dollars.
As issues arise, NTIA utilizes tools such as technical assistance, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs), Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), award suspension, or award termination, to highlight concerns and provide opportunities for recipients to get back on track.
To understand how rural South Dakota is, consider this: The state ranks 17th in the nation in terms of geographic size, but 46th in population - with fewer than 820,000 people, according to the 2010 Census. In some parts of South Dakota, the distance between farmsteads can be six miles. Cattle outnumber people four to one.
For telecommunications companies, the state’s sparse population means that there are not enough customers in many places to enable them to recoup costly investments in advanced telecommunications networks needed to deliver high-speed Internet service.
But even in the most remote corners of the country, access to broadband is becoming critical to fully participating in today’s digital society and information-age economy.
That’s why NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program awarded a $20.6 million grant to SDN Communications just over three years ago to bring broadband to parts of South Dakota that otherwise might never get it. The grant was one of the first to be announced in the $4 billion BTOP program, which is investing in roughly 230 projects nationwide that are building the technology infrastructure and skills that America needs to compete in the 21st century.
SDN Communications, a partnership of 27 independent telecom carriers covering 80 percent of South Dakota, is using its BTOP funding to expand its 1,850-mile, 800-gigabit fiber network by almost 400 additional miles and add an additional 100 gigabits of bandwidth along high-capacity routes.
The project is bringing broadband connections to nearly 310 new anchor institutions, including schools, libraries, hospitals, clinics, public safety agencies, government buildings and National Guard facilities. It is also bringing faster connections to more than 220 anchor institutions already on the system.
Nearly two years ago, NTIA launched the National Broadband Map, and today we are updating it, as we have every six months since its inception. The map provides the first-ever detailed datasets of broadband availability across the country, and it would not be possible without a unique partnership between the federal government, states, and the voluntary participation of many broadband providers.
With funding from NTIA, made available by the Recovery Act, each state undertook a massive effort to locate broadband availability by census block, essentially dividing the country into more than 11 million distinct areas. A census block is the smallest unit of geography for which population or other data are available, and on average has a population of about 28 people. With these data, we can now see change at a granular and national level every six months.
NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) is hard at work in our Boulder, Colorado labs testing next-generation technology that will be used in a new nationwide public safety broadband network to be built by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).
Public Safety official participates in testing of digital LMR intelligibility.
Congress directed that the new FirstNet public safety network utilize Long Term Evolution (LTE) radio technology, a developing commercial network standard for broadband transmission. The public safety community identified LTE as the most promising technology to satisfy its growing need for advanced communications capabilities. As a result, ITS is exploring Voice over LTE(VoLTE), a digital protocol under which the network handles voice as just another form of data, over LTE networks. ITS is working with the public safety community to ensure that mission-critical voice transmission using this new technology is at least as clear to practitioners in field conditions as current technologies.
When the first digital Land Mobile Radios (LMR) appeared in the public safety market, firefighters reported that some of the unique environmental conditions associated with firefighting appeared to be problematic for digital LMR. ITS joined with other government agencies, the public safety community, and industry to resolve these issues through extensive laboratory research and testing with the direct involvement of practitioners and manufacturers. In anticipation of the move to public safety broadband, ITS several years ago began planning, designing, conducting, and analyzing tests to assess the intelligibility of voice communication over VoLTE in field conditions.
As 2012 draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to think back on some of the major things we’ve accomplished and then look forward to what we have on our plate for 2013.
Internet. In 2012, NTIA kept busy on issues spanning all areas of communications. On the Internet policy front, we focused on facilitating multistakeholder work on how mobile applications handle consumer data privacy. I commend NTIA staff and all of the interested stakeholders for their tireless work – seven meetings and five stakeholder-organized tech briefings – over the last six months to proactively address this issue. In addition to cultivating a multistakeholder model for consumer data privacy, we also devoted significant energy in 2012 to preserving the successful multistakeholder model for a free, open, and innovative Internet globally. This culminated in an NTIA team putting their personal lives on hold for a month and dedicating 24/7 to activities in Dubai for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). The WCIT failed to reach consensus on revising the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), but the U.S. delegation never wavered in its commitment to protecting the Internet from top-down government regulation.
NTIA recently released the Third Interim Progress Report on the Obama Administration’s efforts to make available 500 megahertz of spectrum by 2020 for expanded wireless broadband use.
Tablet and smartphone use is growing at an astounding pace, revolutionizing the way Americans work and play by enabling anytime, anywhere accessibility to the Internet. This wireless broadband revolution enhances U.S. competitiveness, creates jobs and drives innovation. It is triggering the creation of innovative new businesses, providing cost-effective connections in rural areas, increasing productivity, and improving public safety.
America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend on access to radio spectrum – the lifeblood of these ubiquitous, data-hungry wireless devices. That is why President Obama’s June 2010 Memorandum set a bold goal of nearly doubling the amount of spectrum available for commercial use by the end of this decade. NTIA is hard at work making that goal a reality.
The President’s memorandum also directed NTIA to take into account the need to ensure no loss of critical existing and planned Federal government capabilities and to explore innovative spectrum-sharing technologies.