Spotlight on NTIA: Frank Sanders, Chief of the Telecommunications Theory Division, Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

December 30, 2013 by

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.

Frank Sanders on ASR 9

When he’s not using complex mathematical formulas to help determine how different wireless spectrum systems will interact with each other, you might find Frank Sanders sifting through a pile of dirt and rock.

Sanders, the Telecommunications Theory Division chief in NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences in Boulder, Colo., is an amateur paleontologist who uses his summer vacations to work on dinosaur, mammoth and mastodon sites in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. Sanders says his rather unique hobby began two decades ago when he answered a museum ad offering classes for a certificate in paleontology. The training certified him to work in lab preparation of fossils and to dig up fossils at field sites. He now works as a volunteer research associate for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

“I am really inherently interested in past history and especially interested in the … earth’s history and knowing what our planet used to be like,” Sanders says.

Sanders takes his hobby very seriously, authoring papers and contributing chapters to books about his paleontology work. He even appeared on an episode last year of the PBS nature series “NOVA,” which focused on a dig in Colorado aimed at unearthing fossil mammoths and other extinct beasts.

NTIA’s Year in Review and 2014 Forecast

December 20, 2013 by Angela Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
Angela Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

As 2013 winds to a close, I’d like to take a look back at all that NTIA has accomplished this year and forecast our plans for 2014.

Much of our work in 2013 focused on supporting the innovation economy of the future – one that produces new and better jobs and positions the United States to remain competitive in the 21st Century.  To do this, we work to promote broadband access and adoption, advocate a multistakeholder approach to Internet policy making, and push to make more spectrum available for wireless technologies. We made great progress this year, but have more work to do in 2014 and beyond.


NTIA played a leading role in promoting the Administration’s broadband agenda through our broadband grant programs. This past year we’ve seen many of the broadband projects make great strides in reaching their goals. Through 2013, our 230 broadband projects have collectively:

Privacy and Facial Recognition Technology

December 03, 2013 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, we are launching a new privacy multistakeholder process on commercial use of facial recognition technology.  Facial recognition technology uses software to help identify a person based on a digital image.

Companies are beginning to use facial recognition for a wide range of commercial applications.  Businesses are incorporating facial recognition capabilities into photo management software, in-store camera systems, online services, game consoles, and mobile devices. Facial recognition technology has the potential to improve services for consumers, support innovation by businesses, and affect identification and authentication online and offline.  However, the technology poses distinct consumer privacy challenges.  Digital images are increasingly available, and the importance of securing faceprints and ensuring consumers’ appropriate control over their data is clear.  For this new multistakeholder process, discussions could include an examination of the privacy risks associated with the use of photo databases in stores and other commercial settings and face prints as a unique biometric identifier. 

The privacy multistakeholder process is an NTIA-led effort to implement the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, part of the Obama Administration’s blueprint for improving consumers’ privacy protections in the information age and promoting the continued growth of the digital economy.  The Administration has also called on Congress to enact baseline consumer privacy legislation.  

Digital Cities Benefit from Broadband Investments

December 02, 2013 by Laura Breeden, Team Leader, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

NTIA congratulates the winners of the 2013 Digital Cities awards, which recognize cities for the innovative use of technology to expand access to government services, promote citizen engagement, increase transparency, reduce costs and improve the lives of residents. The Center for Digital Government, a research and advisory firm focused on technology in state and local government, gave out the awards at the National League of Cities annual conference in Seattle last month.

NTIA is particularly pleased to note that a number of winning cities were lauded for projects and activities funded by our Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Over the past four years, the program has invested roughly $4 billion nationwide in network infrastructure, public computer centers and digital literacy training to help close the digital divide and ensure all Americans can benefit from the promise and potential of the Internet.

Boston, which received two separate BTOP grants, took first-place honors in the Digital Cities “large population” category. Boston used one federal grant to install 638 new computers in 54 libraries, community centers and public housing developments to provide Internet access to those who don’t have it at home. The city used the other investment to offer all sorts of training programs at these centers, covering everything from basic Web navigation and multimedia skills to adult education and job search assistance. For more information, go to http://bpcc.bpl.org/


Spotlight on NTIA: Jerome Watson, Systems Administrator in the Office of Policy Coordination and Management

November 27, 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.

Jerome Watson ThumbnailJerome Watson is a self-described vagabond. The systems administrator in the Office of Policy Coordination and Management has managed to indulge his love of travel while maintaining a 28-year career with the federal government.

Watson’s interest in seeing the world began at the age of 12 when he and his family moved to Nuremberg, Germany for his Dad’s job as a civilian employee with the Army logistics and supply service. He says he fell in love with Europe. “It feels like home to me.”

Before joining NTIA in August 2012, Watson worked for the Defense Logistics Agency for two and half years in Kaiserslautern, Germany. He returned so his daughter could finish high school in the United States and he could be closer to his parents.

He had a previous stint in Germany when he worked for the Defense Information Systems Agency in Stuttgart and also lived in Geneva while working for the State Department.

Despite his short tenure at NTIA, Watson found himself in a critical role during October’s government shutdown when he was chosen as the only employee from his department to work and help maintain NTIA’s computer and other communications systems. “It was very lonely,” he said. Still, he says he was able to use the time to help catch up on some work.

Expanding Broadband Access to Businesses Nationwide

November 21, 2013 by David Beede, Research Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration, Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Just as more Americans are finding broadband essential to life at work and home, most businesses also need high-speed Internet service to remain competitive.  The nation has made good headway in efforts to expand broadband access to work places, according to a new report from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA).

The report, “Broadband Availability in the Workplace,” comes a week after Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker unveiled the department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which prioritizes supporting the digital economy as a great engine of economic growth in the 21st Century. The agenda also highlights the importance of data, such as this new report, to power the economy and help inform business decisions, enable start-ups, and fuel new companies.

Medidas para eliminar la brecha digital que afecta a las comunidades hispanas

October 28, 2013 by NTIA

Estados Unidos celebró recientemente el Mes de la Hispanidad. Mientras continuamos reflexionando sobre los muchos aportes de los estadounidenses de origen hispano a nuestro país, la Dirección Nacional de Telecomunicaciones e Información (National Telecommunications and Information Administration o NTIA) viene trabajando arduamente para asegurar que los hispanos y otros grupos minoritarios cuenten con los conocimientos que necesitan sobre computación para ser más competitivos en la economía internacional, que depende cada vez más de la tecnología.

Los más recientes datos, recopilados con la ayuda de la Oficina del Censo de Estados Unidos (U.S. Census Bureau) como parte de la serie “Digital Nation” de NTIA, indican que 63 por ciento de los hogares hispanos habían comenzado a usar banda ancha para octubre del 2012. Este es un aumento considerable con relación a los datos de julio del 2011, que indicaron que solo 56 por ciento de los hogares hispanos en Estados Unidos contaban con banda ancha. Los datos indican que aunque queda trabajo por hacer, el país está alcanzando logros con respecto a este importante asunto.

La NTIA ha estado trabajando arduamente para que más hispanos usen el Internet gracias a sus programas de subvenciones para banda ancha, al financiar muchos proyectos que han ayudado a promover los conocimientos informáticos y la adopción de banda ancha en comunidades hispanas en todo el país. Es posible que muchas de las personas que aún no usan banda ancha en casa no conozcan los beneficios de usar el Internet. Los programas de capacitación sobre informática les dan a los usuarios un incentivo para comenzar a usar banda ancha al demostrar los beneficios del Internet y aplicaciones que ahorran dinero, como hacer compras, usar cupones y realizar transacciones bancarias por Internet.

Closing the Digital Divide in Hispanic Communities

October 28, 2013 by NTIA

The United States recently celebrated Hispanic-American Heritage Month. And as we continue to reflect on the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to our country, NTIA has been working hard to ensure Hispanics and other minorities are obtaining the digital skills they need to better compete in a global economy that is increasingly reliant on technology.

The latest data, compiled with the help of the U.S. Census Bureau as part of NTIA’s “Digital Nation” series, shows that 63 percent of Hispanic households adopted broadband in the home as of October 2012. This is a significant increase from July 2011 data, which showed that only 56 percent of U.S. Hispanic households had broadband in their homes. The data shows that, while work remains, the nation is making progress in addressing this important issue.

NTIA has been working to bring more Hispanics online through its broadband grant programs by funding numerous projects that have helped to promote digital literacy and broadband adoption in Hispanic communities across the country. Many of those who have yet to adopt broadband in the home may be unfamiliar with the benefits of going online. Digital literacy training programs provide users with an incentive to adopt broadband by demonstrating the benefits of the Internet and money-saving applications such as couponing, online banking and shopping.

With the help of NTIA’s broadband grant program, many Hispanic communities have benefitted from projects aimed at expanding digital literacy and promoting broadband adoption. These include the Learner Web Partnership, which is working with such institutions as South Texas College, where 95 percent of the student body is Hispanic, to provide access to new technologies by opening up computer centers in two heavily Hispanic counties in south Texas.

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.