Too many Native American communities are on the wrong side of the digital divide, lacking access to broadband Internet service and to the economic, educational, and health care opportunities that it enables. NTIA’s broadband grants program, funded by the Recovery Act, is tackling this challenge by bringing broadband Internet facilities to tribal lands and providing computer training to tribal communities. We awarded grants to five tribal authorities for infrastructure and public computer center projects, a subset of the more than 60 broadband projects that will directly benefit tribal communities throughout the United States. Here are some examples:
· In the Navajo Nation, an area with rugged terrain and significant poverty, approximately 60 percent of residents lack even basic telephone service. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is now constructing broadband infrastructure that will ultimately cover 15,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Among other benefits, the project plans to connect 49 Chapter Houses, which serve as community centers for the Navajo population, and pave the way to bring telemedicine services, such as remote diagnostics and patient consultations, to this rural population.
Navajo Tribal Utility Authority construction crews prepare electric infrastructure for installation of fiber-optic cable in the 550-mile broadband infrastructure project.
According to NTIA’s National Broadband Map, less than half of Puerto Ricans have access to basic broadband service, which consumers increasingly need to apply for and get a job, access valuable education and healthcare information, and participate in today’s digital economy.
To help fill this gap, NTIA awarded Puerto Rico two Recovery Act grants to expand and enhance broadband infrastructure. While I was in San Juan earlier this month at the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Telecom Conference, I had the opportunity to visit one of these projects.
I joined members of Critical Hub staff and Puerto Rico Chief Information Officer Juan Eugenio Rodriguez on a tour of Critical Hub’s data center facilities in San Juan, part of its Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative (PRBI) BTOP project.
Critical Hub Networks, which received a $25.6 million grant, is expanding high-speed Internet access in underserved areas of Puerto Rico by establishing a broadband “bridge” to the United States mainland and deploying a high-capacity middle-mile network on the islands. Additionally, Critical Hub will also offer a 25 percent broadband discount to K-12 schools to help improve education and distance learning.
In honor of Veterans Day, we are highlighting resources that can help veterans make a successful transition to the civilian workforce, including projects funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and State Broadband Initiative. These Recovery Act programs, overseen by NTIA, are not only expanding broadband access and adoption nationwide, but also offering tools for veterans and their family members who are seeking employment. For example:
The Massachusetts Broadband Institute is building a web portal for veterans and their families using funding from the State Broadband Initiative. The project is a collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and the Home Base Program, a partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. The portal will give veterans and their family members one online destination to find links to federal, state, and local services and benefits, including resources on housing, education, and employment. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a public economic development agency, will also provide training to help veterans use the portal effectively.
The Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a report today entitled “Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home.” This report investigates broadband Internet use in the United States and finds that disparities continue to exist in broadband Internet adoption among demographic and geographic groups. The report also delves into the reasons why households have not adopted broadband Internet, an important input into the design of policies to achieve a more digitally connected nation.
We all know that the Internet increasingly plays a key role in our everyday lives, including applying for and getting today’s jobs. Broadband internet adoption has increased substantially in only a few years, rising to 68% of households in 2010 from only 51% of households three years earlier and from 64% in 2009, the last time ESA and NTIA looked at these issues.
While this points to progress, a digital divide still exists between different racial and ethnic groups and between urban and rural areas in the United States. Broadband adoption rates varied substantially between different racial and ethnic groups, with 81% of Asian and 72% of White households having broadband Internet access, compared to only 55% and 57% of Black and Hispanic households. The urban-rural divide is also wide, with 70% of urban households having broadband Internet access compared to only 57% of rural households. Socio-economic differences, such as income and education, explain much – but not all – of this divide.
As Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, I serve essentially as the Chief Operating Officer of the agency. Though much of my time is spent on management, I also work on public policy, especially the challenges of expanding broadband Internet use in underserved communities and improving communications for the nation’s first responders. I am honored to play a role in addressing issues that are so vital to our nation’s safety and economic future.
My career path began early. I was born in the United States but spent most of my childhood in Bogota, Colombia, where my father’s family lives. I knew since childhood that I would one day become a lawyer because my mother always told me so. (I would like to think that she recognized in me a precocious talent for logic and deduction, but she was actually commenting on my willingness to argue a point!) I returned to the United States as a teen and did indeed go to law school. I am glad that I did because the law is a good foundation for a career in public service, though it is certainly not mandatory.
My first full-time job was in the litigation group of a law firm. I enjoyed it but wanted to practice communications law instead. While at the firm, I ran the D.C. Hispanic Bar Association’s mentoring program for Hispanic law students. It brought me to the attention of a partner at the firm, who soon went to work at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I joined her at the FCC, where my communications policy work began.
I worked at the FCC for 12 years, serving in various management positions, including Senior Legal Advisor to former FCC Chairman William Kennard. In between positions at the FCC, I served as a staffer on Capitol Hill and at the National Economic Council. Before returning to government in 2009, I also worked several years in the telecommunications industry.
Earlier this year, we launched a ground-breaking interactive online map that shows what high-speed Internet services are available across the country. Like the spread of railroads and electrification spurred new economic opportunities during America’s past, broadband is supporting new economic opportunities in America today. Experts agree that we must better understand where sufficient broadband exists in order to address where it does not.
The National Broadband Map, powered by a searchable database of more than 20 million records, has already drawn more than 500,000 different users. Today we are rolling out the first significant update of the map since it was unveiled in February. The map has new data, current as of December 31. And the number of broadband providers supplying that data has increased to 1,731, up from 1,650 at launch.
Most of these new additions are small providers, including rural companies in places as varied as Alaska and Massachusetts, that may not be household names. Including them in the map will help ensure that consumers shopping for broadband service are aware of all their options.
In addition, the map now offers a new research tool that produces snapshots of individual broadband providers, showing where they offer service, what speeds they offer, and how much of the country – or of a particular state or county – they cover.
The map is an ambitious, unprecedented undertaking – the result of the most extensive set of American broadband availability data ever published – and it is only possible because of a unique federal-state-private partnership. NTIA created and is updating the map twice yearly in collaboration with the FCC, using data that every state, territory, and the District of Columbia (or their designees) collects from broadband providers or other sources.
In the 21st century global economy, America’s competitiveness requires a modern communications infrastructure, a technology-savvy workforce, and public policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for job creation, innovation, and economic growth. NTIA’s activities–at a cost of about a penny per month for each American–represent a modest yet critical investment in our economic future, one that can pay dividends for decades.
Broadband Internet is an essential ingredient not only for job creation but also for improving education, public safety, and health care. Consider this:
Broadband Internet is a catalyst for job creation. In fact, a recent report by McKinsey & Company finds that the Internet has created 2.6 jobs for each job it has eliminated. To take full advantage of the economic opportunities enabled by broadband, however, more Americans need online skills. For instance, broadband service allows a small business owner in rural America to sell her goods to consumers around the world – but online skills are also required.
NTIA’s research shows that nearly one-third of Americans (28.3 percent) do not use the Internet, leaving them cut off from the online economy. Many are rural Americans, seniors, minorities, people with disabilities, the unemployed, and those with low incomes. The most common reason for not adopting broadband is the perception that it is not needed. But broadband is increasingly needed to find jobs, and 21st century skills are needed to get those jobs.
NTIA is working on several fronts to help bridge this digital divide. Most notably, our Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has invested in approximately 230 projects to expand broadband access and adoption in communities nationwide. Funded by the Recovery Act, BTOP projects have already delivered more than 8,000 miles of broadband networks and installed or upgraded more than 9,000 workstations at public computer centers.
In addition, many BTOP projects are providing training in digital literacy and other job-preparedness skills. For example, Portland State University developed Learner Web, an online system of self-paced learning plans for adults who want to accomplish specific goals, such as earning a GED, preparing for a job, increasing digital literacy, or improving English language skills. The university is partnering with regional organizations to enroll adults in the lessons and to assign them tutors.
The summer heat relents, and NTIA celebrates the success of its internship program!
As one of NTIA's nine summer interns, I spent the past two months working in NTIA's Office of Public Affairs helping to manage a range of activities related to the agency's web presence and media relations. Much of my work focused on helping to develop NTIA's new website, track news coverage, and highlight some of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantees' ongoing progress and success stories.
NTIA, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Strickling, is building a strong internship program with year-round opportunities for students to help support the agency's work as the President's principle advisor on telecommunications and information policy issues. Pictured from left to right: Susan Tan, Kacper Szczepaniak, Agatha Cole, Margaret Ross-Martin, Assistant Secretary Lawrence E. Strickling, Ryan Hatoum, Deputy Assistant Secretary Anna M. Gomez, Rafi Goldberg, Jaclyn Ong, Alexander Ratner, Tom Randall, Deputy Chief of Staff and Internship Coordinator Jim Wasilewski
Last Friday, I visited Kannapolis, North Carolina to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of an infrastructure project that will deploy or improve broadband networks throughout much of the state, particularly in rural areas. The effort is led by MCNC, a nonprofit broadband provider that has operated the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) for more than 25 years. The project—funded by a $104 million Recovery Act investment and $40 million in private sector matching funds—will deploy approximately 1,650 miles of new fiber. Combined with upgraded facilities, the project will add 2,600 miles of new or improved infrastructure to MCNC’s network, extending broadband to nearly 1,200 community anchor institutions, including universities, schools, community colleges, libraries, healthcare providers, and public safety facilities. Nearly 500 of those anchor institutions have already benefitted from improved access to the broadband network. Joe Freddoso, the president and CEO of MCNC, said they applied for the Recovery Act funding because bandwidth use by North Carolina institutions was growing by 30 to 40 percent each year—and without network improvements, rural communities would not be able to meet their future bandwidth needs.