NTIA Blog

Promoting Digital Inclusion in the Nation's Capital

May 10, 2012 by Angela Simpson, NTIA Chief of Staff

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Community Broadband Summit held by the District of Columbia to explore the many ways that broadband drives economic growth, spurs community development and opens up new possibilities in jobs, education, healthcare and other areas.

A high-speed Internet connection and digital literacy skills can provide access to up-to-date job listings and new career paths, to specialized online classes and advanced educational content, to valuable healthcare resources and cutting-edge medical expertise. But even in the nation’s capital, there are still too many residents cut off from these opportunities because they are not online.

The D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, or OCTO, which hosted the recent summit, is working to close this divide. And it is the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP, a Recovery Act program administered by NTIA, that makes OCTO’s digital inclusion work possible.

The District of Columbia is one of the few BTOP grantees across the country administering grant projects in all three categories of the program: network infrastructure, public computing centers and sustainable broadband adoption projects.

•        OCTO is building a high-speed, fiber-optic network that will deliver Internet connections of up to 10 gigabits per second to as many as 290 D.C. anchor institutions. These anchors include schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, public safety entities and community colleges – many of which are located in low-income neighborhoods that suffer from high unemployment rates. The new Community Access Network – or DC-CAN – will also expand the District’s existing municipal fiber network, DC-Net, by another 170 miles. When the project is done, OCTO will manage more than 500 miles of fiber.

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NTIA Spotlight: Meeting Spectrum Needs At Home Takes Work Abroad

May 07, 2012 by Julie Zoller, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management

Earlier this year I participated in the 2012 World     Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12), where policymakers negotiated changes to the international treaty that governs the use of radiofrequency spectrum.  This conference is convened every three to four years to ensure the treaty, called the Radio Regulations, keeps up with the rapid pace of technological development in radiocommunications.  

Spectrum is the lifeblood of mobile communications, from the smartphones we carry to the radar and GPS systems used to guide aircraft.  Because radio waves don’t stop at a nation’s borders, international agreements are necessary to ensure that spectrum-dependent devices can operate without causing harmful interference to one another.  That’s where the Radio Regulations come in.  Additionally, harmonized spectrum – essentially, radiofrequencies that multiple countries use in the same way – makes it more likely we can use the same devices in many different countries and therefore makes devices more affordable.

Building Broadband in Maryland: A Statewide Effort

April 04, 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

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a symposium at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab that highlighted the benefits that a new high-speed broadband network will bring to schools, libraries, healthcare institutions, public safety facilities and other community “anchors” across the state of Maryland.

Thanks to the Recovery Act, the Maryland Department of Information Technology is overseeing a $115 million grant from NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build a statewide network that plans to deliver affordable broadband to every one of Maryland’s 24 counties and connect more than 1,000 anchor institutions.

The project – called the One Maryland Broadband Network – is putting down nearly 1,300 miles of new fiber and linking more than 2,400 miles of existing fiber. It will extend and connect three separate systems: the state-run networkMaryland, which was established for public sector use; the nine-jurisdiction Inter-County Broadband Network, which connects government buildings and other anchors across Central Maryland; and a non-profit consortium of rural carriers called Maryland Broadband Cooperative.

When it’s done in late 2013, the One Maryland Broadband Network will supply core infrastructure that local carriers can use to deploy broadband to almost 2 million homes and more than 400,000 businesses, including those in 15 rural counties in Western and Southern Maryland and on the state’s Eastern Shore. The new network will also deliver connections of up to 10 gigabits per second to anchor institutions.

NTIA Issues Report Setting Path to Make Prime Spectrum Available

March 27, 2012 by NTIA

In today’s wireless world, the demand for spectrum from consumers, businesses, and federal users continues to grow at a rapid rate.  In response to this growing demand, in June 2010, President Obama directed the Department of Commerce, working through NTIA, to collaborate with the FCC to make available an additional 500 megahertz of spectrum over the next decade for commercial wireless broadband use.

Today, NTIA took the next step towards meeting President Obama’s goal by announcing that the 1755-1850 megahertz band --95 megahertz of prime spectrum -- could be repurposed for wireless broadband use.  Given the growing demand for spectrum by both industry and the federal agencies, it is increasingly difficult to find desirable spectrum that can be vacated by federal users as well as spectrum in which to relocate these federal users.  Because of these challenges, including the scarcity of spectrum, the complexity of federal operations, and the time and cost of relocating federal users, NTIA is proposing a new path forward for spectrum repurposing that relies on a combination of relocating federal users and sharing spectrum between federal agencies and commercial users.

We look forward to engaging with industry and federal stakeholders through the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee to find ways of working together through spectrum sharing or other means to reduce the time and expense of repurposing the 1755-1850 MHz band.  By making more spectrum available, we can help to fuel innovation and preserve America’s technological leadership while protecting vital government missions.

For more information view the report:  An Assessment of the Viability of Accommodating Wireless Broadband in the 1755-1850 MHz Band

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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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