Foreword to NTIA 2000 Annual Report to Congress

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January 18, 2001
 
NTIA 2000 ANNUAL REPORT

FOREWORD
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
Administrator, National Telecommunications and
Information Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) serves as the President's principal adviser and voice on telecommunications and information issues. As such, NTIA is the only Executive Branch agency devoted exclusively to developing domestic and international telecommunications and information policy, managing the Federal radio spectrum, performing telecommunications research, engineering and planning, and administering Federal grant programs that support telecommunications applications and facilities for education, health care, and other social services.

Current estimates are that the pivotal telecommunications and information sector has contributed to roughly one-third of the unprecedented economic growth that the Nation has enjoyed for the past few years. NTIA has worked diligently domestically and abroad to develop and promote policies, programs, and initiatives to ensure no one is left behind in this new digital economy. With limited resources, NTIA plays a vital and active role in addressing some of the most pressing issues of the new economy, as demonstrated by:

  • the landmark series of Falling Through the Net reports, which define the "digital divide" in America;
  • policy and engineering expertise, which enable the Nation to take advantage of new technologies, such as Third Generation wireless services that will dominate tomorrow's Internet;
  • the NTIA grants that help communities demonstrate innovative ways to use technology to meet unique local needs;
  • advocacy of policies to promote electronic commerce, including consumer protection and privacy; and,
  • representation of the United States in international organizations that have a direct impact on the services and products available to American consumers.

Throughout the year 2000, NTIA worked to advance our Nation's telecommunications leadership position by enhancing access for all Americans, fostering innovation, and protecting consumers in the information age. These and other crucial issues must be addressed as the telecommunications and information sector continues to grow.

Enhancing Access

The emphasis on "access" builds on the principle that all Americans should have the opportunity to participate in the information economy through access to the widest array of telecommunications services available. Enhancing access to telecommunications and information services means not only addressing today's issues but anticipating tomorrow's issues as well. NTIA's laboratory, the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), is our Nation's principal federal laboratory for telecommunications research. ITS provides the technical foundation for NTIA's policy development and spectrum management activities. By coordinating research and testing on innovative new technologies, ITS' work is key to understanding the impacts of NTIA's policy positions on both the Federal and commercial applications of telecommunications technology. NTIA's most significant accomplishments in expanding access include the digital divide efforts, the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) grants, rural access and universal service reform, efforts to expand minority broadcast ownership, and international access initiatives.

The constant drive to close the "digital divide," and promote "digital inclusion" lies at the heart of NTIA's mission. NTIA has produced a series of annual Falling Through the Net reports which detail America's progress in becoming a digital information society. In October 2000, Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta kicked off his Digital Inclusion Tour with the release of NTIA's fourth report, Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion, which assessed the availability of computers and Internet access. For the first time, the report included statistical information on the deployment of broadband telecommunications services and persons with disabilities. Based on Census data, the report was produced jointly with the Economics and Statistics Administration. NTIA also established, and currently maintains, a Government-wide Web site, www.digitaldivide.gov, which serves as a clearinghouse for related federal reports, resources and initiatives, as well as information on private sector initiatives.

Not only does the Falling Through the Net report help NTIA focus its policy emphasis, but it also helps to shape the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP). TOP provides matching grants to non-profit organizations, state, local, and tribal governments to develop innovative applications of information and telecommunications technologies to meet unique local circumstances. The 35 TOP awards, totaling $13.9 million, were announced by Secretary Mineta in October 2000. As a true demonstration program, TOP worked aggressively to share the lessons learned from the projects through reports, an annual conference, a newsletter, and workshops on how to apply to the program.

In representing the Executive Branch before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other bodies, NTIA advocates policies to preserve and advance universal service and competition in the spirit of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. NTIA participated in the deliberations of the FCC's Rural Task Force, advocating policies to reform universal service and bringing affordable broadband service to rural communities. NTIA also urged and supported reform of the FCC's Linkup and Lifeline programs to make basic phone service affordable for Native American families on reservations, where penetration levels are well below the national average. NTIA also prepared, jointly with the Rural Utilities Service, an assessment of broadband deployment in rural areas. Advanced Telecommunications in Rural America was released by President Clinton in April. NTIA's ITS lab provided critical engineering support for this landmark report.

Also this past year, NTIA revitalized the Minority Telecommunications Development Program (MTDP), which develops and advocates policies designed to increase minority participation in the communications arena. MTDP drew together existing and prospective minority broadcast station owners, new media entrepreneurs, financiers and public policy advocates to explore ways to increase minority ownership of radio and television stations. MTDP also completed an improved and expanded Minority Broadcast Ownership Report. The report, produced with assistance from the Economics and Statistics Administration, is the leading Federal resource on this issue and provides new baseline data on minority ownership and a discussion of key issues related to entry. In addition, NTIA issued a first-of-its-kind report on the Internet connectivity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These initiatives reflect NTIA's commitment to promoting diversity, and reaching out to minority populations to ensure their participation in media and online society.

NTIA's international telecommunications policy experts advance privatization, competition, and open markets abroad. Our accomplishments were wide-ranging in 2000. We advocated policies to address the global digital divide that exists within and between developed and less developed countries and helped to shape efforts by the G-8 Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The resulting declarations and charters from major meetings in these organizations now reflect our policy positions, and will shape the future directions of these fora.

NTIA, along with the FCC and State Department, also worked to promote the privatization of INTELSAT, enhancing competition in the global satellite communications markets. We also addressed policies affecting international charging arrangements for Internet services (ICAIS) in various international fora, including the APEC, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Organization of American States. NTIA also advocated policies to ensure greater market access for U.S. companies as part of the European Commission's open proceeding overhauling a wide-range of rules governing electronic communications, including the stimulation of high-speed Internet. NTIA also advanced a wide-range of U.S. policies in the OECD, addressing such issues as computer security, the use of auctions for spectrum licensing, mobile telecommunications termination rates, and online privacy.

In addition, NTIA held its fifth Latin American Telecommunications Summit (LATS) in Lima, Peru, in March. LATS enhances market access opportunities for U.S. firms through high level policy discussions with key foreign government officials. Summit partners include the Telecommunications Industry Association, the International Trade Administration, and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. NTIA also organized multiple overseas workshops for foreign telecommunications regulators, particularly in developing economies, to assist their development of pro-competitive telecommunications and e-commerce policies.

Another key element of NTIA's access work involves our efforts to promote competition in the Internet domain name system (DNS). In 2000, we made significant strides: Several agreements between the Department of Commerce and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) were extended to continue work on this historic privatization process. NTIA also initiated a public proceeding focused on improving the management and administration of .us, the United States' country code top level domain. On the international front, NTIA worked with other governments to develop voluntary guidelines for the delegation and administration of country code top level domains, ensuring a more robust and stable system. NTIA and the Patent and Trademark Office worked with the member countries of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to strengthen procedures addressing "cybersquatting" -- the bad-faith registration of trademarks as domain names.

In addition, pursuant to its agreement with the Department of Commerce, ICANN concluded the historic election of at-large members to its board of directions. Due to phenomenal public interest in the at-large election, ICANN also initiated a study on the election process. ICANN also selected seven new top level domains (TLDs) for the global Internet, which promises to bring Internet users new and innovative services, greater choice, and a richer Internet experience. The new TLDs are expected to go into effect in early 2001.

Fostering Innovation

NTIA also is an agency of innovation in telecommunications and information services. NTIA made a significant effort to improve the Federal Government's spectrum management functions in a way that builds partnerships with industry to preserve public safety and national security while fostering innovation in wireless services for both Federal agencies and private-sector uses. Key to this effort is NTIA's Wireless Innovations in Communications Initiative (WICI), established in February to foster the development of innovative wireless technologies and services and create a cooperative and collaborative environment for industry and government to work together to make the United States the world's leader in wireless communications. Eight meetings held during the year focused on a wide variety of new and emerging telecommunications applications.

NTIA also helped to lead the United States delegation's successful efforts at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2000 (WRC2000) in Istanbul, Turkey. We worked to advance policies to ensure a flexible, market-driven approach to best promote innovative development of Third Generation (3G) wireless services. Consumers in the United States and around the world are on the verge of a new generation of personal mobile communications, as wireless phones become portable high speed Internet connections.

In 2000, NTIA spearheaded the Administration's efforts to advance 3G development within the United States, which must be done quickly if consumers are to reap the benefits of 3G products and services. NTIA prepared the Presidential Memorandum on Third Generation Wireless, signed in October, which contained several important directives. In response, NTIA's ITS lab initiated technical analyses to determine potential radio bands that may be used for 3G. NTIA also worked closely with industry on an interim report, released in November, based on information provided by the Department of Defense with respect to the government band being considered to provide 3G services.

NTIA's innovation efforts also extended to other important areas. In July, NTIA's public safety program, a component of our spectrum management function, hosted the first "all hazards warning" roundtable, where industry, government, and consumer officials examined new ways to use technology to bring tornado, flood, or other disaster or emergency warnings to affected areas in real-time. The ITS lab broke new ground with a series of engineering tests to ensure the compatibility of new ultra-wideband devices with restricted Federal spectrum. Ultra-wide band is a promising new technology that has wide appeal for both commercial and government applications.

NTIA also improved its spectrum management system for providing Federal agencies with sufficient spectrum for their current daily and future radiocommunication needs. In 2000, NTIA processed nearly 95,000 frequency assignment requests from agencies needing to carry out their mandated missions, such as national defense, air traffic control, law enforcement, management of natural resources, emergency warning and disaster relief operations, and other public safety functions. NTIA also prepared a progress report, mandated by law, on national spectrum planning and prepared guidelines on mandatory reimbursement procedures for Federal users required to relocate as a result of the reallocation of Federal spectrum for private sector use.

Many communities and public broadcasting stations are leading the way to advance innovative applications of telecommunications technologies and digital conversion. NTIA continued to play an important role in this process through our Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP), which provided $25.8 million in grants to 103 public radio and television stations across the country. A significant portion of the funds will help public television stations achieve digital conversion.

Protecting Consumers

The digital age, and applications such as e-commerce, brings the promise of new opportunities for many Americans, especially for those alienated from economic prosperity in the industrial era. Yet, it also raises new vulnerabilities to privacy and public security. As the Administration's lead agency on information and telecommunications issues, NTIA has worked to protect online privacy, and raise awareness about online profiling. As part of this effort, NTIA organized a two-day forum and technology fair in September. The event highlighted the innovative ways that industry is working to protect consumers online through new technologies.

NTIA also worked vigorously with industry and advocacy groups to protect children online without hindering the free flow of information on the Internet. Recognizing NTIA's leadership role in this area, NTIA served as an ex officio member of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) Commission, which concluded its work in October.

As the lead agency for protection of the information and communications (I&C) sector from purposeful cyber or physical attack, NTIA also played an important role in the Administration's effort to create a national public/private partnership to address the need for protection of critical infrastructures. NTIA worked with industry to draft a national plan; identified ways to improve the exchange of information on effective protection practices; developed vulnerability assessment tools; promoted research and development; and conducted international outreach on this important issue. In September, NTIA co-sponsored a Telecommunications and Information Security Workshop with the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the National Security Agency, which focused on critical infrastructure policy and security issues that have emerged from the convergence of the Nation's telephone and data networks.

NTIA also announced an historic joint venture with the Department of Defense to perform comprehensive vulnerability assessments of critical infrastructures on military bases and private sector facilities in the Rocky Mountain corridor. The assessments will be completed in June 2001. NTIA also advocated the views of the I&C sector in bilateral discussions, urging the elimination of legal barriers to information sharing on threats and vulnerabilities.

Challenges Ahead

As demonstrated by the above highlights, NTIA plays a leading role in the telecommunications and information policy-making arena. As the Internet, e-commerce and emerging technologies continue to profoundly affect the way we live, work, learn, and communicate, NTIA is prepared to address the many policy challenges that lie ahead. These include, but are not limited to:

• Advancing 3G in the United States: The convergence of the wireless and Internet revolutions is rapidly changing the Internet globally. Other regions in the world are racing ahead to develop the next generation of wireless services, which will enable more people to have broadband Internet access via a mobile wireless system. The United States' drive to keep pace in the 3G wireless race poses one of the most significant telecom policy and spectrum management challenges in NTIA's history. Third generation wireless will take the Internet revolution to new heights, creating opportunity for more Americans to get online. But, in order for that to happen, sufficient spectrum must be available. NTIA's leadership as policy maker and spectrum manager will help determine whether or not the United States is going to remain the world's leader in the Internet.

• Closing the digital divide: The fact that more than half of Americans have computers at home and, by next summer, projections that half of Americans will access the Internet at some location, underscores the urgency that we achieve the goal of digital inclusion. Those who do not have access to high speed Internet services are at great risk of being left behind in the digital economy. The Nation cannot afford this and NTIA will continue to work toward a society of digital inclusion.

• Balancing spectrum needs: NTIA's role is unique -- telecommunications policy advisor and spectrum manager. Spectrum planning is central to NTIA's mission and will become increasingly important as the agency works to balance the needs and requirements of government and commercial users when spectrum is scarce means. This is critical to fostering innovation of new technologies, such as ultra-wideband devices, which potentially could lead to more efficient spectrum use.

• Promoting global access policies: The international nature of the Internet and increasing globalization of telecommunications and information services require that the United States advocate privatization, open markets, and universal access and coordinate with its international trading partners to close the international divide. We must also strive to extend the benefits of digital inclusion to the global society. NTIA will continue to play a critical role for the United States in various international fora to promote these and other policies.

• Protecting consumers online: Consumer concerns about privacy and the protection of telecommunications and information networks will increase as our Nation becomes more dependent on e-commerce and online communication. NTIA will continue to play an important role in policy development, and will work cooperatively with the private sector to ensure privacy and critical infrastructure protection.

• Protecting the information and communications infrastructure: The emergence of critical information and communications (I&C) protection is a major challenge of the 21st century. Every sector of the U.S. economy -- including manufacturing, transportation, energy and utilities, retail and wholesale trade, education, healthcare, finance and government -- depends on information technology and services in its operations. An attack on the I&C sector would adversely affect these vital sectors. NTIA plays a leading role in the effort to safeguard the I&C sector by providing businesses, large and small, with the technical tools and understanding to adequately assess and address the threat of attack. However, NTIA's ability to promote aggressively critical infrastructure protection awareness and remedial action will be severely hampered by a lack of resources for the next fiscal year.

Conclusion

These are highlights of some of the issues addressed by NTIA in 2000. The foregoing 2000 Annual Report provides an in-depth review of NTIA's accomplishments and how we have used our limited resources to carry out the agency's mission. The information is organized by the goals and objectives identified by NTIA in response to the Government Performance and Results Act. For further information about NTIA's activities, please visit our website, www.ntia.doc.gov.

NTIA looks forward to working with Congress, industry, non-profits, local communities, and key international bodies to bring the benefits of the information revolution to all people.