NTIA Blog

Administration Advances Wireless Spectrum for Economic Growth

June 14, 2013 by Tom Power and Lawrence E. Strickling

President Obama today issued a Presidential Memorandum that builds on the Administration’s commitment to make additional spectrum available for wireless broadband to drive innovation, expand consumer services, and increase job creation and economic growth.  The memorandum establishes a set of measures that Federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will now take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. 

Many of the new measures are common-sense ways to improve spectrum efficiency.  Under the memorandum, an agency that requests a new spectrum assignment or that seeks to procure a spectrum-dependent system will have to document its consideration of alternative approaches and verify that it is pursuing the most spectrum-efficient method, in consideration of all relevant factors including cost and agency mission. 

Household Broadband Adoption Climbs to 72.4 Percent

June 06, 2013 by NTIA

New data collected as part of a joint project of NTIA and the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) show the U.S. is making significant progress in the Obama administration’s efforts to get more Americans connected to the Internet. As of October 2012, 72.4 percent of American households (88 million households) have high-speed Internet at home – a 3.8 percentage point (5.5 percent) increase over the July 2011 figure.

Expanding broadband access and adoption is a top priority of NTIA and the Obama Administration. Since 2009, NTIA has invested about $4 billion in projects around the nation to expand access to and use of broadband. Broadband adoption is key to ensuring that all Americans can take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy.

To promote broadband adoption, NTIA awarded $250 million in grants to teach digital literacy skills and to help low-income households acquire discounted computer equipment and sign up for affordable broadband service. We also provided roughly $200 million in grants to install and upgrade computer centers in schools, libraries, and other public buildings to provide Internet access to those who do not have service at home. These projects made enormous strides in tackling the unique and stubborn realities that separate the broadband “haves” from the “have nots” nationwide. NTIA recently compiled some of the best practices developed from broadband adoption and digital literacy projects it funded into a Broadband Adoption Toolkit. The toolkit leverages the experience of about 100 communities to benefit the entire nation, providing practical ideas and tools for overcoming barriers to getting more Americans online.

Breaking Down the Urban-Rural Broadband Divide

June 05, 2013 by By David Beede, Research Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration and Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

While broadband availability has expanded for all parts of the United States, NTIA data has consistently shown that urban areas have greater access to broadband at faster speeds than rural areas. In a new report released today, NTIA and the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) delve deeper into the differences between broadband availability in rural and urban areas.

This latest report is part of a series from NTIA that examines broadband availability data in greater detail. One key finding of the new report suggests that, in many cases, the closer a community lies to a central city, the more likely it is to have access to broadband at higher speeds. This is significant because some lower-density communities are located closer to the central city of a metropolitan area and have more access to faster broadband speeds than higher- density communities that are more distant from a central city.

Rural areas can be either within metropolitan areas (exurbs) or outside of metro areas (very rural areas), and while they each have approximately the same share of the total population (more than 9 percent) there is a wide gap in broadband availability between these two types of communities. The report shows that in 2011, 76 percent of residents in exurbs, which generally ring suburbs, had access to basic wireline broadband, defined as advertised speeds of 3 Mbps download and 768 kbps upload. In contrast, 65 percent of very rural residents, who live outside of metropolitan areas, had basic wired service. This disparity between exurban and very rural areas is even greater when it comes to access to much faster broadband service of at least 25 Mpbs. Only 18 percent of very rural residents had access to broadband at this speed compared to nearly 38 percent of exurban residents.  There are also significant gaps between exurbs and very rural areas when it comes to access to wireless broadband.  

16 BTOP Projects Honored as Broadband “Heroes”

June 03, 2013 by NTIA

Sixteen projects funded through NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) will be honored tonight for being selected as 2013 Computerworld Honor Laureates. They’ll each receive medallions inscribed with the Computerworld Honors Program’s mission, “A Search for New Heroes,” at the Computerworld Honors Awards Gala in Washington, D.C.  

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)-funded NTIA programs selected are: California Emerging Technology Fund; City of Boston; City and County of San Francisco; Clackamas County; Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (SBI grant); Government of DC; Horizon Telcom; Internet2; MCNC; Merit Network; Northwest Open Access Network; Ohio Academic Resources Network (subrecipient); OneCommunity; School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida; Technology for All; and the Youth Policy Institute.

In its 25th year, the Computerworld Honors Program recognizes achievements in 11 award categories. The Recovery Act-funded BTOP and State Broadband Initiative (SBI) grant recipients selected as Laureates are honored in seven of these categories: Collaboration, Economic Development, Emerging Technology, Human Services, Innovation, Mobile Access, and Philanthropy. This year, 22 judges selected 269 Laureates from more than 700 nominations, representing 29 countries.

PSCR Releases Audio Files for Intelligibility Testing

May 31, 2013 by ITS

NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) in Boulder, CO, has been hard at work for years on research aimed at giving first responders next-generation technology that will help save lives.

The public safety research is done through a joint venture between ITS and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Law Enforcement Standards Office (OLES), called the Public Safety Communications Research Program (PSCR).  PSCR is hosting a Stakeholder Conference in Westminster, Colo. June 4-6 to bring together representatives from public safety, Federal agencies, industry, and academia to learn about PSCR’s recent work efforts related to the build out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public safety broadband network.

Beyond the research PSCR is doing for FirstNet, a key area of research at PSCR over the years has been improving the quality of voice communications on digital radios used by public safety.  PSCR recently released audio files used as part of a series of tests focused on enhancing the sound quality of digital radios used by public safety officials. The audio files will be a valuable resource for other researchers, and are now on the PSCR web site: http://www.pscr.gov/projects/audio_quality/mrt_library/mrt_library1.php .

Spotlight on NTIA: OSM’s Karl Nebbia

May 22, 2013 by NTIA

This is the second post in 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.

Mr. Karl Nebbia

Karl Nebbia, associate administrator of the Office of Spectrum Management, has among the most challenging jobs at NTIA: finding enough spectrum to meet both the government’s and industry’s need for wireless technologies.

NTIA is in charge of managing spectrum used by federal agencies to perform a plethora of critical functions for the United States from air traffic control to weather satellites to fighting forest fires.

But Nebbia’s office also is working to help meet the president’s goal of finding 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband over the next decade. As part of this effort, Nebbia has been guiding the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee, which has been working with other federal agencies and industry stakeholders to identify bands of federal spectrum that can be freed up for commercial use.

“The most difficult challenge is trying to accommodate all of these new systems and doing it with pretty limited staff,” says Nebbia, who has worked in spectrum management at NTIA for three decades.

NTIA Explores Broadband Availability in New Report Series

May 13, 2013 by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative
Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

Today, NTIA is pleased to introduce a new set of reports, the Broadband Briefs series, that use publicly available data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce to examine broadband availability in greater detail. This report further examines improvements in broadband availability by speed, technology and location since 2010. NTIA noted in January that most Americans (98 percent) now have access to basic broadband service, and this report explores the change in availability over the last two years -- and the consistency with which broadband speeds are now available across the country.

Since June 2010, broadband availability at all speed levels has increased and basic broadband service is nearly universal in urban areas. While there is still a gap in broadband availability between urban and rural areas, 91 percent of rural Americans have access to basic broadband service as of June 2012. NTIA has been working to address gaps in availability and increase demand for services throughout the country through its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), while the Rural Utilities Service’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) has targeted rural areas in particular. Both programs were part of a 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act initiative aimed at expanding broadband access and adoption. NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative (SBI) has also supported broadband expansion and adoption, state and local planning and capacity-building activities.

World Telecommunications Policy Forum – Building Consensus in Support of a Global, Inclusive, Free, and Open Internet

May 10, 2013 by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel A. Sepulveda

Next week the U.S. will join the Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at the fifth World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) in Geneva.  The U.S. comes to Geneva expecting a consensus outcome to the discussions there but also to renew our commitment to understanding the needs and challenges some countries have with respect to the Internet.    

Many regions of the world feel that the Internet revolution is leaving them behind, and in some cases, feel left out of existing Internet governance structures.  The WTPF and the non-binding opinions it will adopt can help advance practical, informed solutions to these issues.  The U.S. delegation comes to engage in constructive dialogue on Internet-related public policy issues such as Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), Internet Protocol numbering resources, the expansion of broadband, and, perhaps most importantly, the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. 

There are many different perspectives among fellow Member States regarding existing multistakeholder institutions such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the regional Internet registries (RIRs), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  The U.S. has made it a priority to work with colleagues so that these institutions are more welcoming to all governments and to provide them, as one among all stakeholders, a meaningful role in decision-making processes.

Spotlight on NTIA: BTOP’s Emy Tseng

May 03, 2013 by NTIA

This blog is part of a new “Spotlight on NTIA” series. We’ll be 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.

Emy Tseng photoMany people spend their working lives in one career. Emy Tseng, a program officer with NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), is working on three. Tseng has worked at NTIA since it launched BTOP in 2009. But working to expand broadband adoption and digital literacy wasn’t her first calling.

After graduating from Brown University with a math and physics degree, Tseng went to work as a software engineer. After years of working with technology, she decided she was more interested in working on ways to provide access to new technologies. In 1999, she left her job to obtain a degree in technology and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The degree eventually led her to San Francisco, where she landed a job with ZeroDivide.org, an organization aimed at promoting digital inclusion. She went on to lead the City of San Francisco’s efforts to close its digital divide.

After NTIA launched BTOP in 2009, Tseng headed back to the East Coast to work as a program officer on its sustainable broadband adoption and public computer center grants.

The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided funding for the BTOP program, which focused on broadband sustainability, public computer centers and broadband infrastructure.

Administration Honored for Work on Public Safety Network

April 11, 2013 by

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.