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NTIA Grant Program to Help States and Territories Continue Planning for FirstNet Deployment

March 01, 2018 by NTIA

NTIA is pleased to announce the first award recipients of the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) 2.0, which will provide as much as $43.4 million to help states and territories prepare for FirstNet’s buildout of the nationwide public safety broadband network.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 tasked NTIA with establishing a grant program to assist states and territories with planning for FirstNet, a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety that that launched last year under the leadership of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Under the original program, NTIA awarded $116.5 million in grants to 54 U.S. states and territories between July 2013 and June 2014. The funding was used to consult with FirstNet and perform outreach to public safety stakeholders. The original grants expired February 28, 2018, and many recipients spent less than expected, leaving leftover funds.

NTIA is reallocating these funds in a second round of grants, SLIGP 2.0, which will allow for a broader range of planning activities, such as assisting state, local and tribal governments in developing data sharing agreements, helping with the transition of public safety applications to the national public safety broadband network, analyzing coverage gaps, and convening stakeholder meetings at FirstNet’s request.

NTIA Identifies 3450-3550 MHz for Study as Potential Band for Wireless Broadband Use

February 26, 2018 by David J. Redl, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator

Americans rely on broadband Internet access to stay connected, to conduct business, to interact with the government, and for entertainment. Our nation’s broadband needs are increasingly wireless. Whether it’s 5G wireless technologies that promise to deliver dramatic increases in wireless broadband speeds and bandwidth, or the unlicensed technologies we place in our homes, businesses, and communities, wireless broadband technologies are paving the way for transformative changes that will improve health care, advance manufacturing and benefit public safety.

America is the world’s leader in Wi-Fi and 4G LTE and we have claimed an early lead in bringing 5G to reality. It’s essential to American competitiveness that we maintain our leadership in all of these areas. This is a Commerce Department priority under Secretary Wilbur Ross, who understands that to fully realize this potential, we need more spectrum to support broadband data access across the electromagnetic spectrum. 

To meet this growing need, NTIA, in coordination with the Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal agencies, has identified 100 megahertz of spectrum for potential repurposing to spur commercial wireless innovation. This spectrum, the 3450-3550 MHz band, is in the mid-frequency range and could be a key asset in our nation’s broadband spectrum inventory.    

NTIA Recommends Improvements to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection

January 03, 2018 by John B. Morris, Jr., Associate Administrator, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

NTIA relies on sound data to understand the state of communications and information use in the United States, and to develop policies that promote robust broadband services across the country. Since 1994, NTIA has been collecting data on broadband adoption and usage in the United States. Our work has been complemented in recent years by the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data program.

Broadband providers—including both wired and wireless providers—complete Form 477 to report where they offer service, as well as what speeds they offer and the technologies they use, among other information. The data collected through Form 477 constitute a critical resource for NTIA, as well as other policymakers and researchers who are interested in understanding Internet access in the United States. This week, in response to the FCC seeking ideas for how to improve its Form 477 data collection, NTIA filed comments recommending specific measures the FCC can take to enhance the program.

In the filing, NTIA recommends improvements to two aspects of the Form 477 program. First, the FCC should bolster the accuracy of the broadband availability data. During every reporting period, numerous providers from across the country, using a range of different methodologies, submit data on every Census block they serve. Such extensive data are bound to include some inaccuracies and differences based on providers’ interpretations of reporting instructions.

NTIA Data Offers Window Into Understanding Veterans’ Computer and Internet Use

November 08, 2017 by Giulia McHenry, Chief Economist, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

Broadband can play an essential role in supporting veterans by providing access to services and helping them to establish a stable and fulfilling civilian life.

As we honor our veterans this week, we take seriously our responsibility to ensure their seamless transition civilian life and recognize that it’s critical to that all veterans have access to broadband.

Understanding the barriers to veterans’ broadband access and adoption is the first step to reducing the challenges veterans face as they seek out job opportunities, affordable housing, vital health services and more.

In advance of Veterans Day, NTIA conducted an analysis of its Digital Nation data to better understand the landscape of veterans’ computer and internet use in America.  Since 1994, NTIA has partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to survey Americans about their computer and Internet use. Were we able to break out the data by veteran status going all the way back to our earliest data collections. We also added “Veteran Status” as a search option in our Data Explorer tool so that the public can more easily examine the data and create custom charts about internet use by veterans.

ITS Research Offers New Avenues for Improving Speech Recognition in Wireless Communications

October 18, 2017 by Keith Gremban, Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

Noise is one of the more vexing communications issues first responders face during emergencies. Emergency scenes are often loud and chaotic, and responders must compete with background noise — sirens, yelling, a roaring fire, severe weather and more — when trying to communicate with the command center and each other.

Improving over-the-air transmissions so that essential verbal communications can be heard above background noise is part of the goal of signal processing, a decades-long specialty of NTIA’s research laboratory, the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS). This week, ITS is presenting research that offers new avenues for addressing speech separation problems while enabling more efficient use of spectrum. The research could lead to solutions that produce higher speech quality, better speech intelligibility and less distorted sound — while using less bandwidth.

How NTIA Ensures Responders Can Communicate During Hurricane Recovery Efforts

October 11, 2017 by NTIA

United States Coast Guard helicopter
Source: United States Coast Guard

The devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria over the past few weeks triggered a massive response from emergency responders. Thousands of federal personnel have been deployed to the Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Caribbean, including National Guard troops, the Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency staff, mounting search-and-rescue missions and delivering emergency supplies of food and fresh water.

NTIA’s role in these efforts is ensuring that these responders can communicate with each other and with the various state and local agencies on the ground. After Hurricane Harvey, NTIA’s Scott Jackson and Ron Snider flew to Camp Mabry, Texas, where the Texas Department of Public Safety had set up a command post for its Communications Coordination Group. Jackson heads the Emergency Response Team for NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management (OSM), and Snider is a telecommunications specialist in OSM and also a member of the Emergency Response Team.

Three Papers Using NTIA Data to be Presented at Research Conference

September 07, 2017 by John B. Morris, Jr., Associate Administrator, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

For more than 20 years, NTIA has commissioned the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct surveys on Internet and computer use. The Census Bureau periodically includes this Digital Nation survey as a supplement to its Current Population Survey (CPS) – it’s one of numerous supplements that are regularly included with the CPS, with topics ranging from school enrollment to tobacco use.

NTIA has offered our analysis of the resulting data in a series of reports, and we post the raw datasets and other analysis tools to assist researchers who want to use the data. This enables researchers outside of government to make original and innovative use of the data in their own studies, which ultimately contribute to better-informed policymaking.

Tomorrow, three research papers using NTIA’s Digital Nation survey data will be presented at the 45th Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy (TPRC), an annual conference attended by researchers, policymakers, and advocates from the public, academic, and private sectors. The papers serve as instructive examples of how researchers can take NTIA’s survey data beyond the basic metrics to offer unique and valuable insights into Internet use in America.

Annual Spectrum Symposium Will Examine Millimeter Waves

July 11, 2017 by Keith Gremban, Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

ISART 2017 image

Spectrum capacity discussions have often focused on the lower frequency bands (below about 6 GHz) because those signals are able to travel significant distances without being interrupted by environmental factors. But these lower frequency bands do have a drawback for wireless transmission in a data-hungry age – available bandwidth is limited.

Until recently, higher frequencies were not considered useful for outdoor transmissions, since their signals are susceptible to propagation loss in bad weather and can’t travel through buildings. However, advances in technology are beginning to unlock their potential.

Higher radio frequencies, from roughly 20 to 300 GHz, are considered promising spectrum for the next generation of wireless technologies, including 5G. Attention is particularly concentrated on the millimeter wave (mmWave) or Extremely High Frequency (EHF) bands, 30–300 GHz. The bandwidth available in the millimeter wave frequency range could increase the speed of cellular Internet service by more than ten times.

NTIA Celebrates Vital Role of Digital Inclusion Programs

May 08, 2017 by NTIA

This week, NTIA is joining communities, organizations and broadband advocates in recognizing Digital Inclusion Week and the important work being done by digital inclusion programs across the country.

The concept of digital inclusion goes beyond ensuring that everyone in the United States has access to the Internet -- it reflects the understanding that people require robust broadband connections, connected devices that meet their needs, and the skills to explore, create, and collaborate in the digital world.

Community leaders, universities, libraries, nonprofit groups and others are working together on digital inclusion programs that connect citizens and inform them about the tremendous number of economic, educational and entertainment benefits that computer use can provide. There are endless examples of these kinds of programs, including “learn to code” classes, workforce skills programs, and training for seniors so they can seek out health information online.

NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program offers guidance, assistance and resources to help build the capacity of digital inclusion programs. A few highlights:

ITS Releases Key Software Model to Boost Collaborative Spectrum-Sharing Research

May 01, 2017 by Keith Gremban, Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

Evolving and improving the science behind spectrum sharing is essential to NTIA’s commitment to delivering the spectrum needed to support innovation, power next-generation technologies and ensure that federal agencies can execute their spectrum-dependent missions.

Understanding the characteristics of radio waves, especially how far they propagate and how they interact with structures and the environment, is important in planning and operating wireless systems. Any agreement to share spectrum bands will require reliable predictions of how that spectrum will perform in the real world.

The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) recently took a major step toward a more collaborative approach to research in this area by publicly releasing an advanced software model for radio wave propagation in urban environments. This software can be used by consumers, engineers, scientists and others to explore the behavior of radio waves interacting with buildings, trees, and other environmental features.

ITS released the software to the public by publishing source code on GitHub, an online platform for open-source code. Posting to GitHub will allow researchers to use and modify the code as they wish, as well as collaborate with other researchers and avoid duplicating efforts. ITS hopes that making its source code freely available can advance development of widely accepted propagation models.

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