NTIA Blog

Building Community Networks in Wisconsin

March 21, 2012 by NTIA

A dozen years ago, a group of technology officials in the neighboring Wisconsin cities of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls began meeting to share ideas on how to prepare their computer systems for Y2K. The group included officials from the city and county governments, local school districts, community libraries and medical institutions. And while Y2K came and went without incident, it soon became clear that the collaboration had the potential to turn into something much bigger.

Today, that group – called the Chippewa Valley Inter-networking Consortium, or CINC – operates an extensive broadband network that connects 150 schools, libraries, hospitals, clinics, technical colleges and university campuses across the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls region. And now, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program is expanding that original “community area network” and replicating its success in three other Wisconsin communities that see CINC as a model for establishing a 21st Century communications infrastructure.

Building Community Capacity through Broadband, or BCCB, is using $30 million in Recovery Act funding to lay down more than 600 miles of fiber that will extend the network in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and create new community area networks in Platteville, Wausau and Superior. The public-private project is being spearheaded by the University of Wisconsin-Extension program, but has many partners, including dozens of local governments and school districts.

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Supporting our First Responders' Communications Needs

March 15, 2012 by NTIA

Last week, over 350 representatives from public safety organizations, Federal agencies, industry and academia converged in Broomfield, Colorado to learn about the latest developments in public safety broadband technologies.  The conference was sponsored by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, a joint effort between NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) research laboratory and NIST's Office of Law Enforcement Standards.  Public safety workers have long been hampered by incompatible communications, and the PSCR program is working with the public safety community and industry to address this critical issue through research, testing, evaluation, and standards development on behalf of its Federal agency sponsors at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.

The conference was timely because just last month President Obama signed legislation to create a much-needed nationwide interoperable broadband network that will help police, firefighters, emergency medical service professionals and other public safety officials stay safe and do their jobs.

The law provides a framework for creating the nationwide network, charging NTIA with some of the responsibilities. In her remarks at the conference, Deputy NTIA Administrator Anna M. Gomez told attendees that the agency is both "humbled and privileged" to be entrusted with "serving the first responders, carriers, manufacturers, and state, local and Tribal governments that all have a role in creating the single interoperable public safety network the statute envisions."

New Data for the National Broadband Map

March 02, 2012 by Anne Neville, Director of NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative

Just over a year ago, we unveiled the National Broadband Map – an unprecedented, interactive map that shows what high-speed Internet services are available in the United States. Powered by a searchable database of more than 20 million records, the map is the most extensive set of U.S. broadband availability data ever published. Our partners in the states collect new data every six months from nearly 1,800 broadband providers nationwide. Just as we did last September, today we are again updating the map with the latest information.

The map has proven a valuable tool to a wide range of stakeholders, including consumers, researchers, policymakers, local planning officials, and application developers. Broadband drives economic growth and innovation – including advances in health care, education, and public safety – so data on America’s broadband capabilities is of increasing importance, especially as we work to close the digital divide.

Our goal remains to provide the most accurate information available. To make this possible, states are using a variety of best practices to validate data before providing it for the map. For example, the Missouri team uses a combination of techniques, including hitting the road to verify infrastructure, and comparing information supplied by broadband providers to third-party datasets, public data, and surveys the team conducts throughout the state. Utah uses similar methods, and has also conducted 9,300 miles of drive tests over in order to assess and validate mobile broadband availability and performance.

You can help too: our crowdsourcing feature enables you to confirm the accuracy of data or let us know if you spot an error. Just type in an address into the search bar and then select “expand all” to see your options for providing feedback. We pass this information back to the states to help with future data collections.

Moving Forward with the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

February 29, 2012 by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, NTIA

Last week the Obama Administration unveiled a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, part of a comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers’ privacy protections in the information age and promote the continued growth of the digital economy. These rights enumerate the specific protections that consumers should expect from companies that handle personal data, and set expectations for the companies that use personal data. While the Administration will work with Congress to enact legislation based on these rights, we are moving forward now to put these principles into practice.

At the request of the White House, NTIA will soon begin convening interested stakeholders -- including companies, privacy advocates, consumer groups, and technology experts -- to develop and implement enforceable codes of conduct that specify how the principles in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights apply in specific business contexts.

But first we want your input. We are seeking your views on what issues should be addressed through the privacy multistakeholder process and how to structure these discussions so they are open, transparent, and most productive.

As you will see in our Request for Public Comments, we think the first topic for stakeholder discussion should be a discrete issue that allows consumers and businesses to engage and conclude multistakeholder discussions in a reasonable timeframe. We list some options for an initial topic, including how to apply the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights’ Transparency principle to the privacy notices for mobile apps. We also invite commenters to discuss lessons learned from existing multistakeholder processes in the Internet policy and standards realms as we finalize the arrangements for the privacy discussions.

White House Unveils New Comprehensive Privacy Blueprint

February 23, 2012 by NTIA

The Obama Administration today unveiled a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” as part of a comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers’ privacy protections and ensure that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.

At the request of the White House, the Commerce Department’s NTIA will begin convening companies, privacy advocates and other stakeholders to develop and implement enforceable privacy policies based on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

The report, “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy,” resulted from a comprehensive review of the intersection of privacy policy and innovation in the Internet economy lead by the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force.

White House to Honor NTIA Recovery Act Broadband Grantees as Innovators in Infrastructure

February 14, 2012 by

NTIA's Recovery Act broadband infrastructure projects  are connecting communities across the country to high-speed Internet, creating jobs, and supporting economic growth.

Tomorrow, the White House will recognize two individuals who helped develop and are now implementing broadband infrastructure projects that are key to revitalizing their communities. Joe Freddoso, President and CEO of MCNC, and Donald Welch, President and CEO of Merit Network Inc, will be among 11 local leaders honored at the White House as “Champions of Change” who are using innovative techniques to develop valuable projects helping to improve America’s infrastructure.

Merit Network and MCNC both received Recovery Act grants from NTIA for broadband infrastructure projects that are currently underway and connecting community anchor institutions, including schools, libraries, and hospitals, to high-speed Internet.  Under the leadership of Welch and Freddoso, Merit and MCNC have put hundreds of people to work and are laying the groundwork for sustainable economic growth and improved education, healthcare, and public safety. These projects emanated from the communities where they are being carried out; each project is designed to best meet the needs of local people and institutions and to get the biggest bang for every grant dollar. Merit’s project is serving Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula, and MCNC is serving communities across North Carolina.

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Latino Business Leaders: Broadband is Key to a Strong Future

February 13, 2012 by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna M. Gomez
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna M. Gomez

Last week I attended a meeting of Latino business leaders, convened by the White House, to discuss how the broadband industry can grow the jobs of the future in the Latino community.

We often hear about an emerging skills gap in America and the urgent need for more graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Business leaders recognize that to help address this challenge, particularly in the technology sector, broadband Internet access is a priority. Another key to growing a technology-skilled workforce is tackling the broadband adoption gap in the Latino community.  NTIA’s research shows that only 57 percent of Hispanic households had broadband service in 2010, which significantly lags behind the national rate. Even when adjusting for socioeconomic factors, like income and education, Hispanic households still trail White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points.

To encourage the next generation of computer programmers and information technology workers – and to help today’s workers better compete – broadband access at home and in schools is a vital first step. To help tackle this issue, NTIA is vigorously overseeing approximately 230 broadband projects nationwide. These projects, funded by the Recovery Act, are deploying new and upgraded broadband networks, extending broadband access to schools and other community anchor institutions, upgrading and expanding public computer centers, and providing free computer and job training for residents.

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BTOP Case Study Five: Bill Callahan, Connect Your Community Project Director, OneCommunity

February 10, 2012 by NTIA

As part of our BTOP series: Tales from the Front Lines, today we are highlighting Ohio sustainable broadband adoption grantee One Community.

OneCommunity, a non-profit broadband provider in Northeast Ohio, is using Recovery Act funding to expand innovative broadband adoption work it is doing in Cleveland and replicate the program in seven other communities in Ohio and four other states. The Connect Your Community (CYC) project provides computer classes and broadband training, as well as low-cost equipment and help finding affordable Internet access, to get low-income households online. One key to the program is the CYC Corps, a team of staffers hired in each community to teach computer and Internet basics to others, who are using those skills to look for jobs or even start their own businesses online. Working with eight local partners, OneCommunity says it is on track to produce 26,000 new broadband adopters. (OneCommunity is also using another Recovery Act award to upgrade and expand its fiber-optic network, which connects anchor institutions in Northeast Ohio).

Computer training at a public housing site in Lorain, Ohio.

BTOP Case Study Four: Andrew Buss, Director of Public Programs, Office of Innovation & Technology, City of Philadelphia

February 09, 2012 by NTIA

As part of our BTOP series: Tales from the Front Lines, today we are highlighting public computer centers in Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia is using a Recovery Act award to open or expand 77 computer centers in health and social service agencies, homeless shelters, affordable housing locations and recreation centers in low-income communities across the city. The project, led by Philadelphia's Office of Innovation & Technology, gives the city's most vulnerable residents access to everything from job postings to health information to educational resources on the Internet. It is part of a broader program called KEYSPOT, Powered by Freedom Rings Partnership. The partnership is a coalition of more than a dozen city agencies, grass-roots organizations and universities working to increase broadband adoption rates in Philadelphia. Another lead agency in the partnership, the Urban Affairs Coalition, is using a separate Recovery Act grant to teach digital literacy skills and provide workforce training in KEYSPOT computer centers. Working together, the two projects are providing online access, instruction and support to help all Philadelphia residents participate in today's wired society.

public computer center in West Philadelphia

A public computer center in West Philadelphia

BTOP Case Study Three: Mark Shlanta, CEO, SDN Communications

February 08, 2012 by NTIA

As part of our BTOP series: Tales from the Front Lines, today we are highlighting South Dakota infrastructure grantee SDN Communications.

SDN Communications, a partnership of 27 independent telecom providers covering 80 percent of South Dakota, is using a Recovery Act grant to expand its 1,850-mile, 300-gigabit-per-second fiber-optic network by another 360 miles and add an additional 100 gigabits of bandwidth along high-capacity routes. The project will enable SDN to deliver broadband speeds of at least 10 megabits per second to 300 anchor institutions that will be added to the network, including schools, libraries, hospitals, clinics, public safety agencies, government buildings and National Guard facilities. It will also deliver faster connections to more than 220 anchor institutions already on the system.

SDN construction crew at work

Shlanta said that in a rural state like South Dakota, broadband brings critical new opportunities in healthcare and education. Broadband allows patients who live in rural communities located far from big hospitals to consult with doctors and other healthcare specialists across the state. Broadband also allows school districts to share staff and resources by making it possible for students to remotely attend classes hosted by other districts. One institution that will get faster connections is the Telecommunications Lab at the Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell, S.D., which prepares students for careers in the telecom industry and is training workers to operate broadband networks such as those being built with BTOP funds.