NTIA Blog

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.

Spotlight on NTIA: Mike Dame, Program Director, State and Local Implementation Grant Program

December 29, 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.

Mike DameIt’s not surprising that Mike Dame ended up working for the federal government on issues that ultimately will assist emergency first responders.

Dame, program director for NTIA’s State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP), grew up in the Washington area and his father worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. Dame had long planned to follow his Dad into public service, but had his hopes set on working for the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or some other federal law enforcement agency.

Poor vision, however, derailed his plans for a federal law enforcement career so instead he switched his college major to a focus on government and politics. Despite this, Dame has still found ways to work on issues important to law enforcement while also fulfilling his desire for public service.

In his current role, Dame is leading a program that has provided grants to states to help them prepare for the launch of a nationwide broadband network for public safety, which is being developed by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The FirstNet network will provide police officers, firefighters and other local, state, tribal and federal first responders with 21st century tools to help them do their jobs more effectively.

NTIA Grant Program Ensuring States are Planning for FirstNet

December 23, 2014 by Mike Dame, Program Director, State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP)
Mike Dame, Program Director, State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP)

When Congress called for the creation of a nationwide broadband network for public safety in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, lawmakers knew it was important that states play a key role in ensuring that the network meets the needs of local first responders. To implement this goal, the law directed NTIA to establish the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) to support states as they prepare for the launch of the network.

Since awarding grants to 54 states and territories in 2013, NTIA staff has been busy working with our SLIGP grantees on how to make the most of this opportunity. The $116 million in grants are helping states as they conduct outreach with public safety and state and local officials to determine their needs, gaps and priorities for public safety wireless broadband and to prepare for formal consultations with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which is developing the public safety broadband network.

As we continue to monitor the progress of these efforts, NTIA’s SLIGP federal program officers are conducting site visits to its state grantees. We are gaining valuable information from these visits about how different states are using their grants to plan for FirstNet and have begun sharing some of this information by developing best practices documents.

States are identifying challenges they might face in deploying the nationwide broadband network. They also are making progress on grant priorities such as determining coverage needs and identifying users that will participate on the network, as well as establishing governing bodies to assist the state’s single point of contact for FirstNet.

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.