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NTIA 2023: A Year in Review

By Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce & NTIA Administrator

I often describe NTIA as a ‘small but mighty’ agency. We lived up to that moniker in 2023, making considerable progress in our work to close the digital divide, build a better Internet at home and abroad, and support U.S. wireless innovation and leadership.

Closing the Digital Divide 

NTIA is in the midst of a historic mission: to connect everyone in America to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service.

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion in new funding to accomplish that mission. NTIA hit major milestones in 2023, including:

  • Announcing allocations at the White House for the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program to 56 states and territories.
  • Awarding $980 million in grants across 40 states and territories from our Middle Mile program, which invests in projects building regional networks that support last-mile networks connecting homes and businesses.
  • Making more than $1.86 billion in awards to support network deployment as well as devices and digital skills training for 226 Tribal entities through our Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

In addition to the new funding, we are starting to see results from recent awards made through our Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP) and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC). BIP grants have connected more than 11,000 previously unserved households with new high-speed Internet service. CMC funding has helped students like Gabriel Tahy connect to online classes and Phashad Williams pursue a new career as a fiber technician.

We look forward to connecting more people – and to the improved education, work and healthcare opportunities those connections provide – in the years ahead.

Building a Better Internet 

While artificial intelligence systems have been around for a while, I think it’s safe to say 2023 was the year they fully captured the public’s imagination. And rightly so: Responsible AI innovation can – and will – bring enormous benefits to people. But we will only realize the promise of AI if we also address the serious risks it raises today.

I’m proud to say that NTIA has been on the forefront of federal AI policy work to maximize those benefits while mitigating the risks.

Last year, we launched an inquiry into AI Accountability Policy – how we ensure there is a policy ecosystem in place to verify that AI systems work as they claim to, and without causing harm. We received tremendous interest in this work – more than 1,400 comments! - and will share our recommendations soon. 

At the direction of the ambitious new AI Executive Order, NTIA will dig into AI openness – in particular, the benefits and risks posed by widely available model weights.  

We kicked off public engagement with this work at an event in December, and look forward to learning more from stakeholders as we seek policies that both promote safety and allow for broad access to AI tools. Our recommendations are due by the end of July 2024.  

Wireless Innovation and Leadership 

Finally, NTIA made huge strides in spurring U.S. wireless innovation and leadership with the White House release of our National Spectrum Strategy in November. 

From the cell phones in everyone’s pockets to the satellites that help predict the weather, spectrum affects our lives every day in ways we can’t even see. As a result, spectrum is among our Nation’s most vital and scarce national resources. 

The growing importance of connectivity and data makes it clear that spectrum demand is only increasing. Our National Spectrum Strategy provides a blueprint for meeting that demand, including identifying more than 2,700 megahertz of spectrum to study for potential new uses. 

NTIA is also catalyzing development of new open and interoperable wireless networks through our Wireless Innovation Fund. This $1.5 billion program aims to help accelerate the shift from closed, proprietary network equipment to open and interoperable equipment, boosting competition and supply chain resiliency, and lowering costs. NTIA awarded $18 million in grants from this fund in 2023, with much more to come in 2024. 

This is just a snapshot of NTIA’s achievements in 2023. There were many others: award-winning research by our Institute for Telecommunication Sciences on 5G signals and aircraft radar; amazing efforts by FirstNet supporting disaster responses from Maui to Colorado to Texas; and our international work, including promoting open and trusted wireless networks, and the new G7 Code of Conduct for Organizations Developing Advanced AI Systems

Every day, NTIA staff is working to ensure technology promotes human progress. I look forward to sharing more of that work with you in 2024.