NTIA Blog

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.

Spotlight on NTIA: Jim McConnaughey, Chief Economist

June 21, 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.

Jim McConnaugheyNTIA Chief Economist Jim McConnaughey is, as one would expect from an economist, passionate about economics and its use in public policy.

Yet, McConnaughey’s first job out of college as a junior-level economist at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was more serendipity than strategic career planning. McConnaughey said he sought a job at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but due to a misunderstanding was given a phone number to call about an opening at the FCC.

He quickly realized his mistake but was intrigued by the work the FCC was engaged in at the time, which included an in-depth look at the Bell System’s monopoly of the U.S. phone market – a probe that eventually helped lead to its breakup. His nine-year stint at the FCC cemented his interest in communications policy issues. After leaving the FCC in 1983, McConnaughey went to work as the research manager at a public policy consulting firm, where he co-authored two books and testified in rate cases. After six years he wanted to return to the government. He eventually landed at NTIA as its senior economist, working on a variety of issues including universal service, competition, and regulatory reform and has remained with the agency for 24 years.

Mapping NTIA's Broadband Investments

June 18, 2013 by NTIA

To illustrate the impact of the $4 billion Recovery Act investment in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and State Broadband Initiative (SBI), NTIA has developed a user friendly online tool to visualize the high-speed broadband networks, public computer centers and Internet training programs funded across the country.

Map SectionThe BTOP map went live in 2012 with data submitted by NTIA’s grantees in their 2011 progress reports. And we recently updated the map using data from last year’s progress reports.

As of the end of 2012, our projects had built or upgraded more than 86,000 miles of high-speed network infrastructure and connected more than 12,000 schools, libraries and other anchor institutions. They had installed more than 41,000 workstations in public computer centers, provided more than 12 million hours of computer and Internet training to more than 4 million people, and recorded more than 521,000 new residential broadband subscriptions.

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.