The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the Executive Branch agency principally responsible for domestic and international telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA's workforce of approximately 280 employees works to promote the efficient and effective use of telecommunications and information resources in a manner that creates job opportunities, enhances U.S. competitiveness, and raises the standard of living. NTIA is physically located in the Herbert C. Hoover Building at 1401 Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC 20230 and its laboratory -- the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences -- is located in the Commerce Laboratory Complex at 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305-3337.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the President's principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy issues and, in this role, frequently works with other Executive Branch agencies to develop and present the Administration's position on these issues. In addition to representing the Executive Branch in both domestic and international telecommunications and information policy activities, NTIA also manages the Federal use of the spectrum; administers infrastructure grants to support the development of a national information infrastructure accessible to all Americans; manages public telecommunications facilities grants designed to maintain and extend the public broadcasting infrastructure; and performs cutting-edge telecommunications research and engineering, including resolving technical telecommunications issues for the Federal government and private sector.
NTIA is unique among Federal government agencies in that everything the agency does is focused exclusively on telecommunications and information. The expertise of the agency extends to every aspect of telecommunications, including community network applications, domestic policy, international policy, spectrum management, and telecommunications research and engineering. Within the resources available to the agency, NTIA addresses the highest priority issues in telecommunications and information today and maximizes the return on those resources by utilizing this expertise throughout its programs. Our analysts bring not only an appreciation of the complexities of developing national policies, but they also draw on technical expertise to understand how those policies will facilitate or hinder development and application expertise to gauge the impact on communities and individuals. This internal synergy is critical to NTIA's credibility and respect in the community; the agency's power of influence and ability to successfully advocate positions is a direct result of this synergy.
Telecommunications and Information Environment.
The telecommunications and information revolution is bringing dramatic growth and change to the nation's economic, social, and political life. These exciting developments affect every American to some extent because nearly everyone uses telephones, televisions, computers, radio, and related technology. Citizens receive public services and protections that rely upon telecommunications technology. Communication is fundamental to the very organization of society and to life as it is lived today. Affordable access to telecommunications technology is becoming a basic necessity for a successful and productive life in all sectors of our society, including business, academia, industry, banking and government.
The rapid growth and critical importance of the telecommunications and information industries will continue for at least the next decade, domestically and internationally. The following charts --An Overview of Industry Growth and The Global Telecom Industry --attest to the industry's growth and its impact on our future.
The growth of technology is defining our economy today and for tomorrow.
Globally the industry is positioned for continuing growth. Any indicator associated with telecommunications and information provides a similar growth projection for the future.
Over the next decade, new equipment and services will be deployed and purchased on a scale that is unprecedented. The pace of commerce is expected to accelerate as the global community seeks to participate in the new business opportunities and advantages made possible by the evolving global information infrastructure.
Viewing the impact of these technologies solely through an economic prism, however, may not provide a full picture of the magnitude of change on individuals, society, and international affairs. Some of these changes can be extrapolated from existing trends, while others promise to astonish even the experts.
Present and Future Issues
The increasing convergence of telecommunications and information technologies produces novel combinations that challenge accurate prediction. As the telephone network increasingly is used to transmit data and the television provides viewers access to the World Wide Web, varied and unique combinations of previously discrete technologies are being created. The convergence of technologies also means the blurring of industry boundaries -- previously clearly defined industries that have been regulated by disparate authorities -- and the convergence of service offerings. The impact of this convergence on regulatory issues challenges old sensibilities and institutions.
The issues for today and tomorrow require NTIA to provide expertise-based leadership and a visionary view of what lies ahead in telecommunications and information. Ideas matter and NTIA's experts will continue to be at the leading edge of policy analysis regarding ideas and issues confronting and shaping the telecommunications and information sectors today and for the future. A sampling of these issues includes:
As the diffusion of new technologies into the marketplace accelerates, the need to effectively and efficiently manage spectrum -- a precious, finite resource -- is critical. Although NTIA represents the Federal users of the spectrum and must ensure spectrum is available to enable Federal missions -- including air traffic control and national defense -- to be accomplished, the scarcity of this resource requires NTIA to function as an honest broker on behalf of the public interest, working constructively and cooperatively with the private sector and government spectrum users. At the same time, NTIA is uniquely positioned and has the expertise necessary to formulate a spectrum management vision for the future and policies for today that encompass the entire range of spectrum applications and users.
Many wired telecommunications services will be augmented by additional wireless services; the accompanying escalating demands for spectrum in turn demand increasingly efficient and effective management of this finite resource. Wired and wireless solutions will coexist, creating unprecedented options for individuals and organizations. These transformations not only will require rapid policy response, but also clear-eyed analysis and forecasts. As an example, Personal Communications Services (PCS) are gaining momentum, establishing communications available anytime and anywhere for many Americans. These new services are accompanied by new issues that will need to be addressed, including competition and universal service, privacy and security issues. Continued growth of wireless services requires technological and administrative advances in spectrum management.
The push to connect schools, libraries, and other community access centers to electronic information sources continues. NTIA today is helping to design models to ensure fulfillment of our national commitment to universal service, which now is defined to also ensure that schools, libraries, and other public institutions are connected to the emerging telecommunications infrastructure. NTIA in the future will contribute to assessments of how well universal service is working, how to ensure that public institutions are current with technology, how technologies are used in public institutions, and whether and how universal service should be redefined.
In the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on basic telecommunications services entered in March 1997, almost 70 countries, representing approximately 95% of the world's telecommunications revenues, have agreed to liberalize their telecommunications markets. NTIA will work with our colleagues to ensure that the signatories understand the regulatory principles and enforcement mechanisms needed to make liberalization happen in their countries and assist them to the maximum extent possible with implementation of the WTO Agreement.
The FCC is requiring television broadcasters to convert to digital technology by 2006 (although there may be an extension determined by consumer preferences). NTIA will contribute to the debate on the appropriate public interest obligations of digital broadcasters. The President recently established an advisory committee to provide recommendations to the Vice President on this issue; NTIA is charged with programmatically and administratively supporting this Committee.
In addition, public broadcasters alone will require at least $1 billion to cover their conversion to digital. The survival of public broadcasting in light of this conversion is not guaranteed; this issue could be prominent throughout the next decade. Through its Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP), NTIA has developed significant expertise and on-going relationships with the public broadcasting community and is uniquely qualified to contribute to the debate on public broadcasting's conversion to digital.
Electronic commerce will proliferate over the next five years, creating and expanding business opportunities globally. NTIA will support a predictable, minimalist, consistent and simple legal environment that will facilitate the growth of electronic commerce, and help resolve privacy, content regulation, copyright protection, taxation, and other similar issues. Market access and infrastructure issues will become more pronounced, accompanied by public impatience for rapid resolution so that commerce will not be impeded.
Public safety and law enforcement increasingly will rely on the use of telecommunications and information technologies in support of their missions. NTIA will work with the FCC to assist Federal, state and local public safety offices to utilize such technologies effectively and efficiently.
Levels of concentration of ownership in telecommunications and media industries appear to be increasing rapidly. This increased concentration raises policy and legal questions, requiring continued collaboration with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.
The NTIA Role
The new digital era requires a public policy environment that embraces innovation, encourages competition, and empowers consumers. In fulfillment of its role as the President's principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy issues, NTIA must keep pace with these issues and cultivate synergy with the FCC, the State Department and the USTR, as well as with the full range of Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, and others that use telecommunications in discharging their responsibilities for the nation's safety and well-being. It is critical that NTIA continue to fulfill a leadership role on telecommunication and information policies.
At NTIA, the admonition "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" is particularly appropriate. The Federal government has a critical responsibility to assist in shaping the global telecommunications and information policy debate. A key NTIA role is to ensure that government does not obstruct private sector innovation and the rapid deployment of telecommunications technology. Today, and even more urgently in the future, NTIA must exercise a blend of leadership and collegiality that synergizes with a complex network of federal, state, local, and international entities.