NTIA Blog

The Necessity of an Inclusive, Transparent and Participatory Internet

November 30, 2012 by Lawrence E. Strickling, Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Philip L. Verveer, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, State Department

On the eve of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), we believe that it is the right time to reaffirm the U.S. Government’s commitment to the multistakeholder model as the appropriate process for addressing Internet policy and governance issues.  The multistakeholder model has enabled the Internet to flourish.  It has promoted freedom of expression, both online and off.  It has ensured the Internet is a robust, open platform for innovation, investment, economic growth and the creation of wealth throughout the world, including in developing countries.

There are those who may suggest next week in Dubai - and in future venues where Internet policy is discussed - that the United States controls the Internet. Alternatively, they may suggest that in the future governments alone should run the Internet.  Our response is grounded in the reality that this is simply not the case.  The Internet is a decentralized network of networks and there is no one party – government or industry – that controls the Internet today.  And that’s a good thing.

The Internet’s decentralized, multistakeholder processes enable us all to benefit from the  engagement of all interested parties. By encouraging the participation of industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments from around the globe, multistakeholder processes result in broader and more creative problem solving.  This is essential when dealing with the Internet, which thrives through the cooperation of many different parties.

The global community has many serious topics to discuss with respect to the Internet.  Collectively, we need to ensure that these matters are taken up in suitable multistakeholder venues so that these discussions are well informed by the voices of all interested parties.

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Broadband Construction Season

October 19, 2012 by Max Fainberg, BTOP Program Officer

Max Fainberg

While stuck in construction traffic the other day, I thought of the old cliché that there are only two seasons – winter and road construction.  But after visiting the Central Valley Independent Network’s (CVIN) offices in Fresno, California this summer, I would add broadband construction as a third season.

For CVIN and all other Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) projects, summer is a time to build.  Whether it’s hanging fiber on utility poles or trenching, plowing, and drilling underground, our awardees and their construction crews are busy at work. 

Broadband is a world of extremes:  it takes heavy-duty, 10-ton equipment to install fiber strands that are as small as a human hair.  It takes months and years of hot, sweaty, dust-filled workdays to build a network that will provide massive amounts of data to end users at speeds measured in millionths of a second.  It takes hundreds of man-hours, at a pace of 1000 feet per day to install the fiber that will connect our schools and hospitals with resources on the other side of the planet with just the click of a mouse.

The Privacy Multistakeholder Process Turns to Substance

August 28, 2012 by By John Verdi, Director of Privacy Initiatives, NTIA

At the second privacy multistakeholder meeting regarding mobile application transparency held August 22, stakeholders made substantial progress on procedural issues to move this process forward. Poll results from the meeting are available here. NTIA grouped the poll results into three categories: “general support,” “mixed views,” and “general opposition.” These categories are our rough groupings, and are certainly not binding. However, we think that they are helpful in identifying stakeholders’ initial priorities moving forward. Stakeholders are welcome to propose concrete suggestions on procedural topics from any category.

This Wednesday, stakeholders will meet again, with two main goals. First, stakeholders will develop an initial priority list for substantive elements that might be included in a code of conduct for mobile application transparency. Second, stakeholders will propose concrete procedural steps that the group can take to implement the top priority substantive elements.

In an effort to support stakeholders, NTIA has organized the substantive elements previously raised by the group into four categories. We hope that these rough categories will assist in stakeholders’ review of their previous work and streamline the discussion of substantive elements at the August 29 meeting. Stakeholders are, of course, encouraged to propose changes to the categories if they believe a different structure would be superior.

Getting Older Americans Online

August 06, 2012 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

NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) is funding innovative programs across the nation that are working to close the digital divide. And a number of those projects are targeting a group of Americans too often left behind by today's fast-moving technology: seniors.

Broadband can improve quality of life for older Americans in many ways. Online videoconferencing technology can allow seniors to see grandchildren who live on the other side of the country. Medical websites can provide easy access to everything from health and wellness tips to information about illness and disease. Telemedicine and remote monitoring can enable elderly patients too frail to travel to consult with doctors at distant hospitals. Social media tools can combat isolation and even serve as a lifeline to the outside world.

What’s more, at a time when many Americans are working into their retirement years, Internet job listings and online employment applications – as well as Web-based training programs and classes - can help seniors retool for today’s economy.

But not enough older Americans are sharing in the benefits of broadband. NTIA, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, conducts some of the most extensive survey work on broadband adoption trends in the U.S. Our most recent published survey, in October of 2010, found that only 45 percent of U.S. households headed by someone 65 or older had broadband. That compares with 72 percent of households headed by someone ages 45 to 64, and 77 percent of households headed by someone ages 16 to 44.

BTOP is helping close this gap. Roughly 20 digital inclusion projects that receive funding through the Recovery Act program provide services targeted at seniors in some capacity. We’d like to tell you about three in particular:

A Homework Assignment for Privacy Stakeholders

August 01, 2012 by John Verdi, Director of Privacy Initiatives

On July 12, 2012 we took another step toward implementing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s blueprint to improve consumer privacy safeguards and promote the growth of the digital economy.

Stakeholders from industry, consumer groups, government, academia, and the technical community began work toward crafting a code of conduct to promote transparency — one of the principles in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights — in how consumer data is handled by mobile applications. After seeking public input, we chose this topic because it affects many consumers yet is a narrow enough issue for stakeholders to develop a code of conduct within a reasonable period of time. As stakeholders gain experience working together to address mobile app transparency, we are also laying the groundwork for tackling other privacy challenges.

The first meeting was a success. Hundreds of stakeholders participated, both in person and remotely. As the day progressed, we saw stakeholders raise constructive suggestions regarding what elements might be included in the code. Stakeholders also began to discuss the rules of the road for this process, proposing ways that the group can work together to develop the code.

As Assistant Secretary Strickling has said about this effort, NTIA’s role is not to substitute our judgment for the views of stakeholders. We will not weigh in on substantive issues. But we remain committed to ensuring the process is open, transparent, and consensus-based.

We plan to convene two meetings in August, one on August 22, 2012 and another on August 29, 2012. The meetings will be opportunities for stakeholders to continue developing a code of conduct while building the process that will govern their efforts moving forward.

The National Broadband Map Is Updated

July 25, 2012 by Lynn Chadwick, Acting Director, State Broadband Initiative

Today we again updated the National Broadband Map, the unprecedented interactive map that shows what high-speed Internet service is available in the United States. The map is powered by a new set of data from 1,865 broadband providers nationwide – more than 20 million records – and displays where broadband is available, the name of the provider, the technology used to provide the service, and the maximum advertised speeds of the service.

Since its launch last year, the National Broadband Map has attracted more than 650,000 users who are employing the map to meet a variety of needs. For example:

Driving broadband adoption in the Latino community

July 06, 2012 by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna M. Gomez
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna M. Gomez

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) about NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the work it is doing to promote broadband adoption in the Latino community.

A high-speed Internet connection can provide access to everything from online job postings to educational opportunities to valuable healthcare information. But too many Latino households remain cut off from these important benefits.

NTIA, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, conducts some of the most extensive survey work on broadband adoption trends in the U.S. Our most recent survey, in October of 2010, found that 72 percent of White households nationwide subscribed to broadband, compared with only 57 percent of Hispanic households. The survey also found that socioeconomic factors such as income and education do not fully explain the gap. Even after accounting for these factors through regression analysis, Hispanic households still lag White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points on a nationwide basis.

So NTIA’s BTOP program is supporting a number of projects specifically intended to benefit Latinos – by funding computer centers in neighborhoods with large immigrant communities, by offering computer training and digital literacy classes in Spanish, and by helping Latino entrepreneurs and Latino-owned small businesses get established online. I’d like to tell you about a few of those projects:

Honoring David (DJ) Atkinson

June 21, 2012 by NTIA

NTIA is honored to report that the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) has established the Atkinson Technical Award to commemorate David (DJ) Atkinson, a senior engineer with NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) who was recently killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. His death has been a great loss to NTIA and to ITS, NTIA’s research and engineering laboratory, which is located in Boulder, CO.

DJ made an important contribution to the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, a joint program run by ITS and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards to research and develop common technical standards for public safety communications. As part of the PSCR program, DJ led the Public Safety Audio Quality project at ITS labs.

In announcing the new award, NPSTC said DJ’s work on audio quality and intelligibility guidelines for digital two-way radios helped lead to a “shift within the industry to address issues in loud background noise environments for first responders.” Firefighters who rely on radios built to standards developed through DJ’s work called him “brother,” and many openly credit his work with saving lives.

NPSTC awarded the first Atkinson Technical Award posthumously to DJ at a June 2012 national meeting. Deputy Assistant Secretary and NTIA Deputy Administrator Anna Gomez accepted the award on behalf of DJ’s family.

Picture of DJ

David (DJ) Atkinson

Putting the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights into Practice

June 15, 2012 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

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration released a comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers’ privacy protections in the information age and promote the continued growth of the digital economy. The White House requested that NTIA convene interested stakeholders -- including companies, privacy advocates, consumer groups, and technology experts -- to develop enforceable codes of conduct that specify how the principles in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights apply in specific business contexts. NTIA then asked for your input on what issues should be addressed through the privacy multistakeholder process and how to structure these discussions so they are open, transparent, and consensus-based.

Based on input from a broad range of stakeholders, we are today announcing that the first topic for the privacy multistakeholder process will be: Providing transparency in how consumer data is handled by mobile applications. On July 12, NTIA will convene the first meeting for stakeholders to begin developing a code of conduct that applies the Transparency principle in the Consumer Bill of Rights to mobile apps.

We proposed this as an initial topic because it is a privacy challenge that affects many consumers yet is discrete enough to be addressed in a reasonable period of time. Many of you agreed. We expect the stakeholder experience in developing a code of conduct on this topic will inform future efforts to develop codes that address other privacy issues.

When codes of conduct are developed and implemented, consumers will have clearer protections and businesses will have greater certainty. And maintaining consumer trust in the Internet will help ensure that it remains an engine for American innovation and economic growth.

Last Call for the Low Power Television and Translator Digital Upgrade Program

May 25, 2012 by William Cooperman, Director, Broadcast Division, Office of Information and Telecommunications Applications, NTIA

The deadline for analog low-power television stations and translator stations to apply for a federal grant to cover digital upgrade costs is fast approaching. The last day that NTIA can accept grant applications under the Digital Upgrade Program is July 2.

While all full-power television stations in the United States had to upgrade to digital broadcasting in 2009, thousands of analog low-power television stations and translator stations have until 2015 to make the transition. 

The Digital Upgrade Program provides reimbursements of up to $20,000 to analog low-power stations in eligible rural communities that have completed the transition and are now broadcasting digital signals. Eligible stations include Class A stations, low-power television stations, as well as translator and booster stations. 

NTIA currently has $22 million available for Digital Upgrade Program awards. More than 1,000 low-power stations have already received funding.

But NTIA’s authority for the program will expire on September 30.  In order to process all applications by that deadline, NTIA must receive all applications by 5 p.m. on July 2.

You can get more Information about the Digital Upgrade Program, including information on station and community eligibility, eligible costs and application forms, at www.ntia.doc.gov/lptv. You can also email questions to lptv@ntia.doc.gov or call (202) 482-1199.