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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
David (DJ) Atkinson
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.
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 email@example.com or call (202) 482-1199.
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.
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.
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.