NTIA to Convene First Facial Recognition Technology Multistakeholder Meeting

February 05, 2014 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

This week, the Commerce Department is taking an important step in our campaign to drive innovation and better protect consumer privacy in the digital economy. On Thursday, the agency’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will bring together representatives from technology companies, trade groups, consumer groups, academic institutions and other organizations to kick off an effort to craft privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology

This initiative is the second “multistakeholder process” launched by NTIA to implement the Obama Administration’s consumer data privacy framework. The centerpiece of that framework is the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which lays out high-level principles for protecting consumer privacy in today’s networked world. The multistakeholder processes will establish voluntary, enforceable codes of conduct to apply the Bill of Rights in specific business contexts.

Facial recognition technology is being embedded into everything from social networking services in the virtual world to building access systems in the physical one. Online services are adopting facial recognition software to help consumers organize their personal photos. Video games are using face prints to customize the gaming experience. And bricks-and-mortar retailers are employing recognition-enabled cameras to identify customers and reduce fraud.

Commerce Promotes Digital Economy at State of the Net

January 28, 2014 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

(The following originally appeared on Commerce.gov)

Over the past 20 years, the Internet has radically transformed the way Americans work and play.  And it continues to be a key driver of innovation, job creation and overall economic expansion.

At the Commerce Department, we understand the importance of the Internet to America’s digital economy and the continued growth of the global economy. That’s why preserving a vibrant, open and free-flowing Internet is a core mission of our agency.

Today, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker addressed the 10th annual State of the Net conference, where she shared the Department’s commitment to promoting policies that support America’s digital economy. And she pledged to act as the champion of good Internet policy that supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and their workers.

At the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), we’re working to fulfill that pledge by continuing to work –  both domestically and internationally – to champion the multistakeholder model for developing Internet policies. As I outlined in my remarks at State of the Net today, the Internet is a diverse, multi-layered system that thrives only through the cooperation of many different parties.  Solving policy issues in this space requires engaging these different parties – businesses, policymakers, civil society leaders, and others.  They are all partners in the process, each with the ability to participate and have a voice in the outcome.


Exploring Spectrum Sharing Through Technical Studies

January 10, 2014 by NTIA

Recognizing the importance of making additional spectrum available for wireless broadband to drive innovation, expand consumer services, and promote continued economic growth, NTIA is working hard to explore new options for federal government and industry to share spectrum. The Obama Administration is committed to making available an additional 500 MHz of spectrum for commercial use this decade, and spectrum sharing will be a critical component of that effort.

computer-controlled measurement system to gather data on radar-to-LTE interference effects
NTIA/ITS engineer John Carroll using a computer-controlled measurement system to gather data on radar-to-LTE interference effects. Photo by Frank Sanders.

NTIA continues to move technical spectrum-sharing studies forward to explore better and more efficient use of spectrum. In December 2013, we completed an important building block in spectrum sharing by publishing test results that show the extent to which radar signals can have effects on broadband Long Term Evolution (LTE) receivers. NTIA Technical Report TR-14-499, “Effects of Radar Interference on LTE Base Station Receiver Performance,” describes the methodology and results of a series of tests designed to reveal the impact of radar transmissions on 4G LTE receivers when both are operating in the same band. Another significant contribution to this discussion is the recently published report by Mike Cotton and Roger Dalke of ITS, "Spectrum Occupancy Measurements of the 3550-3650 Megahertz Maritime Radar Band Near San Diego, California."

Narrowing the Digital Divide in the Navajo Nation

January 07, 2014 by NTIA

Spread across the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, the Navajo Nation is home to up to 175,000 members of the Navajo Tribe. Tribal members live scattered across more than 27,000 square miles of land stretching from northeast Arizona to northwest New Mexico to southeast Utah.

It’s a place where many roads have never been paved, many buildings don’t have a formal postal address and thousands of families remain cut off from the electrical grid. At least 60 percent of homes don’t have landline telephone service even though wireless signals are often spotty or nonexistent. The 911 system often cannot track where people are calling from during an emergency. And high-speed Internet access has been almost entirely unavailable.

NTUA Fiber Deployment

Data from the National Broadband Map, which is maintained by NTIA in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission, show that less than 4 percent of the population living in Navajo Nation territory has access to even the most basic wireline broadband speeds of 3 megabits per second downstream.

But with a $32 million grant from NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is bringing a modern wireless communications system to a region that has been all too frequently bypassed by amenities that most Americans take for granted.

Established in 1959 to deliver basic utility services, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority today is one of the largest utilities owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. It provides water, sewage, electricity, natural gas, solar power and communications services to tens of thousands of customers across the Navajo Nation. And now the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is signing up its first customers for a new 4G LTE wireless broadband network funded largely by the federal government.

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.