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.

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.