NTIA Blog

Spotlight on NTIA: Sheila Williams, Administrative Specialist, Office of the Assistant Secretary

October 22, 2013 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.

Sheila Williams ThumbnailFor many students, an internship is a way to get a jumpstart on their career while still in college. For Sheila Williams that opportunity came much earlier than most.

A Washington, D.C., native, Williams got her first job at the Commerce Department as a summer intern while she was still a student at Cardozo Senior High School.

It wasn’t an easy gig for a 16-year-old. Williams left her house each day at 6 a.m. and had to take three buses to arrive for her internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Public Affairs in Rockville, Md. Her mother, who worked at the State Department, pushed Williams to get an early start on her career and to obtain marketable skills she could fall back on if needed. “My mother was the ring leader,” Williams says with a laugh.

Williams, an administrative specialist, is primarily assigned to helping Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling. This includes arranging his travel and helping to manage his busy schedule.

Williams has spent her entire three-decade career with the Commerce Department. The antithesis of the stereotypical jaded government bureaucrat, she is quick to offer a warm smile and friendly greeting to anyone who enters the front office.

Uncle Sam Wants You to Help Us Design a Spectrum Monitoring Pilot Project

September 30, 2013 by

Meeting Americans’ increasing demand for broadband wireless technologies requires finding more spectrum. NTIA has been leading efforts to help meet President Obama’s goal of identifying 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband by 2020 while balancing the spectrum needs of federal agencies.

Finding spectrum bands, however, that can be shifted from their current applications to enable new broadband services is a difficult task. While clearing spectrum bands to make way for new wireless services has been a viable approach for many years, options for relocating incumbent operations are dwindling, getting more expensive, and taking longer to implement. Given this, NTIA has been working with the Federal Communications Commission, other federal agencies, and industry stakeholders to explore ways to share the spectrum without displacing existing systems in the same bands.

In a June 2013 executive memorandum on “Expanding America's Leadership in Wireless Innovation,” President Obama noted that spectrum sharing can and should be used to enhance efficiency among all users and can expedite commercial access to additional spectrum bands where technically and economically feasible. The memorandum directs federal agencies to take a number of additional steps to accelerate shared access to spectrum and tasks NTIA to design and conduct a pilot program to monitor spectrum usage in real time in selected communities throughout the country.

State Broadband Grants Are Helping States Embrace Digital Government

September 25, 2013 by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative
Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

With the Internet on our phones, our tablets, at the office and in our homes, most Americans have come to expect that our government, too, will be online. Still, whether it’s due to a lack of resources or skepticism over the need, some local governments have yet to fully embrace the potential of e-Government.

As part of our efforts to expand broadband access and adoption, NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative (SBI) has been working with states to help them provide the tools for citizens to participate in government online. These efforts are providing real benefits for consumers in many states, including allowing residents to communicate with government officials, make online tax or fine payments, and access numerous government forms.

With NTIA’s state broadband grants, states have taken a variety of approaches to helping localities better utilize the Internet. In Arkansas, Connect Arkansas, a nonprofit corporation focused on increasing broadband adoption and access, has used an SBI grant to work with 17 counties to help them launch engaging, transactional, and informational websites or to enhance existing sites. Six Arkansas counties have launched or are expected to launch new e-Government websites by the end of the year. 

Often, the savings created by a new or expanded website offsets the costs of creating and maintaining these sites by allowing county and city employees to spend less time taking in-person payments or answering questions over the phone. Since the launch of the property tax feature on its new e-government website in March 2012, Sharp County, Ark., has collected $360,000 in property taxes online.  This new feature has saved county staff as much as a full week in time as well as postage and stationery fees, according to County Collector Charlotte Ratliff.

Spotlight on NTIA: Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser, Office of International Affairs

September 09, 2013 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.

Suzanne Radell ThumbnailSuzanne Radell, a senior policy adviser in NTIA’s Office of International Affairs, spent far more of her childhood abroad than she did in the United States. It’s one reason why she says she was drawn to work on international issues when she grew up.

Radell, whose father worked as a civilian Army employee after serving in World War II, was born in Istanbul, Turkey and has lived in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Lebanon.

She got her undergrad degree in political science from Schiller College in Paris but decided to return to the United States to obtain a Master’s Degree in political science from the State University of New York, at Binghamton. She is a dissertation short of obtaining her doctorate in international relations from George Washington University.

Radell, who is fluent in French, says her early exposure to foreign countries and culture helped cultivate her interest in international relations. Radell leads NTIA’s policy related to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages the Internet’s domain name system. She also represents the United States within ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC), advancing coordinated U.S. government positions on a wide range of public policy issues related to the Internet domain name system.

Broadband Expanding Possibilities for Students in West Virginia and the Nation

September 05, 2013 by Laura Dodson, Director for Comprehensive Communities Infrastructure for NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
Laura Dodson, Director for Comprehensive Communities Infrastructure for NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, dissecting a frog in middle school biology was a messy and smelly experience. Technology has made that a much cleaner experience in today's middle school biology classes – while also saving thousands of innocent frogs.

During a recent visit to Southside K-8 School in McDowell County, W.Va., I witnessed how technology allows students to dissect not just frogs online, but starfish and other amphibians as well. As a web-based program, this requires real bandwidth.  Such activities would not have been possible last year when Southside was using two slower 3 Mbps-speed Internet connections for the whole school, which allowed for only a few students to work online at the same time.

With the help of a $126 million NTIA broadband grant, the school now has access to a fiber-based 100 Mbps connection that allows any Southside student to get online. NTIA’s grant has produced real results in this classroom in McDowell County and throughout West Virginia. It has helped bring a fiber broadband connection to all 750 public elementary and high schools in the state -- an important and proud milestone for West Virginia.

While some West Virginia schools had access to broadband prior to NTIA’s investment, the broadband grant helped upgrade connections and bring high-speed Internet to 195 schools that lacked access. Gale Given, West Virginia’s chief technology officer, says only a handful of states have managed to bring fiber broadband connections to every public school. “This could not have happened without BTOP,” she notes of her own state’s effort.

Overall, NTIA’s West Virginia broadband grant has helped fund the build out in the state of 675 network miles and connected more than 1,100 community anchor institutions, which includes not only schools but also healthcare centers and public safety organizations.

Bringing Broadband to Schools in Rural Michigan

August 16, 2013 by Anthony Wilhelm, Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications
Anthony Wilhelm, Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications

President Obama’s ConnectED proposal aims to bring next-generation broadband, with speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and high-speed wireless, to K-12 schools across the nation.

Nowhere is the need greater – or the challenge tougher – than in rural America. High-speed Internet connections can give students living in remote communities access to classes, teachers and instructional materials that those in urban regions may take for granted. But with so many rural areas still lacking advanced telecommunications infrastructure, schools in these places often remain cut off from the promise of broadband.

In Michigan, a non-profit broadband provider called Merit Network is tackling this challenge by connecting K-12 districts in some of the most far-flung reaches of the state.

Installing fiber.

Installing fiber.

 

Merit, which owns and operates a statewide research and education network, dates back to the early academic and government networks that evolved into today’s Internet. It was established in 1966 by the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

Today, Merit is using more than $100 million in federal funding from NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to install more than 2,000 miles of fiber to expand its network across the rural stretches of the state’s northern Lower Peninsula and the remote, economically distressed Upper Peninsula. Before the NTIA investment, “there wasn’t a whole lot of infrastructure” in the region, says Jason Russell, Merit’s member relations director.

New Broadband Map Data Shows Progress, But Work Remains

August 05, 2013 by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative
Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

Two and a half years ago, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched an interactive online map that shows what high-speed Internet services are available to every neighborhood in the country.

This week, we are updating the dataset underlying the National Broadband Map (NBM) for the sixth time since it was established in early 2011 in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and partners in every state and territory.

The new data – current as of Dec. 31, 2012 – reveals what types of technology and speeds are available from more than 2,000 telecommunications companies nationwide. And it confirms that we are making steady progress as a nation in ensuring that all Americans have access to at least a basic level of broadband.

As of the end of 2012, nearly 99 percent of Americans had access to broadband speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 Kbps upstream through either wired or wireless service. And 96 percent had access to broadband speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream – speeds that will soon be considered a basic requirement for accessing many online services. Moreover, nearly 90 percent of Americans had access to 4G wireless broadband, defined as service with download speeds of at least 6 Mbps, as of the end of 2012. That’s up from 81 percent in June 2012 and just under 26 percent in June 2010.

But the map data also make clear that there is still more work to be done - particularly when it comes to building out the advanced, high-capacity telecommunications networks that our nation needs to compete and succeed in the global digital economy.

Of the 2,083 providers in the latest update, 1,618 offer basic broadband speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, and 1,018 offer broadband speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream. But only 200 offer 100-megabit connections.

Spotlight on NTIA: John Verdi, director of privacy initiatives, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

July 30, 2013 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.

John VerdiWhen NTIA was tasked last year with helping to launch a new multistakeholder process aimed at developing privacy codes of conduct for various business sectors, the agency turned to someone who understood how technology, law and privacy intersect.

With a background as both a computer programmer and lawyer, John Verdi fit the bill. Verdi, who began his job as NTIA’s director of privacy initiatives in April 2012, has been in charge of organizing the multistakeholder process aimed at drafting voluntary industry codes of conduct to enhance consumer privacy. In this role, Verdi has the delicate job of trying to help move the process forward without weighing in on the substance.

The process reached an important milestone last week when stakeholders involved in the process agreed to begin testing and implementing a privacy code aimed at enhancing the transparency of mobile apps.

After graduating from the State University of New York at Binghamton with a philosophy, politics and law degree, Verdi worked as a computer programmer. While he enjoyed working with technology, Verdi says he didn’t see computer programming as a career that would satisfy him for the long term and decided to pursue a longtime interest in law. At Harvard Law School, Verdi says he had the opportunity to be around a lot of people at the cutting edge of technology and law.

Building a Statewide Educational Network in the Keystone State

July 11, 2013 by Anthony Wilhelm, Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications
Anthony Wilhelm, Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications

Late last month, I had the pleasure of joining representatives from the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) as they celebrated the completion of their statewide network linking many of the state’s colleges and universities. What had long been out of reach for Pennsylvania’s education community had finally become a reality with the help of NTIA’s broadband grant program. 

Unlike most of its neighboring states, Pennsylvania did not have a statewide broadband network to serve the ever-expanding needs of educational institutions, healthcare centers, and other community institutions. That is until KINBER leveraged a $99.6 million grant from NTIA, along with $29 million in matching contributions, to build the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN). The recently completed 1,600-mile statewide network currently provides affordable broadband service to customers, mostly colleges and universities, through 63 connection points on the network reaching 50 counties throughout Pennsylvania.

KINBER construction crew strings fiber
A KINBER construction crew strings fiber between telephone poles in a Pennsylvania community
(click to enlarge)

Connecting America’s Schools to Next-Generation Broadband

July 01, 2013 by NTIA

The White House recently set an ambitious goal to connect 99 percent of American students to ultra-fast broadband within five years. President Obama’s ConnectED initiative would bring Internet speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and high-speed wireless to K-12 schools across the nation.

At NTIA, we are already making these types of connections a reality in K-12 schools through our Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which has invested about $4 billion in roughly 230 projects nationwide to expand broadband availability and use. Of our 116 network infrastructure projects, about 75 percent are linking or supplying additional bandwidth to schools. Overall, roughly 10,000 schools in 44 states are being connected or upgraded, and almost 70 percent are getting access to speeds of at least 100 megabits.

Thanks to our grant program, teachers, students and parents are witnessing how technology can transform education, expand student horizons and create new opportunities for those living in even the most remote corners of the country.

A high-speed Internet connection can let students take online courses and access cutting-edge research at universities across the country. It can bring Advanced Placement classes and foreign language programs to small rural schools with limited resources. And it can help teachers customize lessons for students at different learning levels by leveraging all sorts of online curriculum materials.