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The State of the Urban/Rural Digital Divide

August 10, 2016 by By Edward Carlson, Policy Analyst, and by Justin Goss, Intern, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

While 75 percent of Americans reported using the Internet in July 2015, the longstanding disparity between urban and rural users persists and has emerged in the adoption of new technologies such as the smartphone and social media, according to the latest computer and Internet use data collected for NTIA. This suggests that in spite of advances in both policy and technology, the barriers to Internet adoption existing in rural communities are complex and stubborn. In particular, Americans who were otherwise less likely to use the Internet—such as those with lower levels of family income or education—faced an even larger disadvantage when living in a rural area. Conversely, rural individuals with higher levels of education or family income did not have significantly lower adoption rates than their urban counterparts, according to the data. The data comes from NTIA’s Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

View of the Rural Divide


Figure 1: Internet Use from Any Location by Population Density
Percent of Americans Ages 3+, 1998-2015

Figure 1: Internet Use from Any Location by Population Density Percent of Americans Ages 3+, 1998-2015


Spotlight on NTIA: Jean Rice, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, and Don Williams, Senior Broadband Development Officer, Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications

August 03, 2016 by NTIA

This post is part of our "Spotlight on NTIA" blog series, which is highlighting the work that NTIA employees are doing to advance NTIA’s mission of promoting broadband adoption, finding spectrum to meet the growing demand for wireless technologies, and ensuring the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.

Jean Rice and Don Williams both work at NTIA – and just so happen to be married.

Jean and Don work for NTIA’s BroadbandUSA team. Jean focuses on developing partnerships with federal agencies and on broadband deployment and adoption in rural and tribal communities, while Don provides technical assistance to local governments, nonprofits, and community groups that are developing broadband deployment strategies.

Don Williams and Jean Rice
Don and Jean in Washington state's Olympic National Park

Increasing the Potential of IoT through Security and Transparency

August 02, 2016 by Angela Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a wide range of consumer benefits – from the ability to control your thermostat or light fixtures through a smartphone, to an Internet-connected home security system, to wearables such as Internet-connected fitness bands and watches and beyond. To help realize the full innovative potential of IoT, users need reasonable assurance that IoT devices and applications will be secure.

One particular area of concern is whether and how to address potential security vulnerabilities in IoT devices or applications through patching and security upgrades. In the early IoT market, there has sometimes been limited consideration for supporting future security patches, even though many devices will eventually need them. Enabling a thriving market for devices that support security upgrades requires common definitions so consumers know what they are getting. 

Currently, no such common, widely accepted definitions exist, and manufacturers can struggle to effectively communicate to consumers the security features of their devices. This is detrimental to the digital ecosystem as a whole, as it does not reward companies that invest in patching and it prevents consumers from making informed purchasing choices.

Annual Conference Will Explore Spectrum Forensics

July 28, 2016 by Keith Gremban, Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

Spectrum sharing is key to meeting the ever-increasing demand for spectrum among commercial and federal users. As sharing becomes more common, federal and non-federal users will need to increase their cooperation and collaboration, and technological advancements will be needed to improve efficiency and protect against interference.

But that’s not enough, because bad actors can undermine and interfere with those users who are acting in good faith. Even those who want to follow the rules may inadvertently cause interference – as when some Wi-Fi installations were shown to cause interference with weather radars operated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. armed forces and broadcasters.

Inexpensive radios and comprehensive code repositories have given those with limited skills and know-how the ability to misuse spectrum and cause interference with increasing frequency, severity and consequences. To help address this, some of the questions researchers and policymakers are trying to answer include: What are the best practices for isolating an interfering signal and tracking it to its origin, and what should the consequences be for the offending transmitter to prevent future interference?

Spectrum Forensics

How Spectrum Enables Agencies to Fight Wildfires

July 25, 2016 by Paige R. Atkins, Associate Administrator of the Office of Spectrum Management

This is part of a series of blogs highlighting how federal agencies use spectrum to carry out important missions for the American people.

When a large wildland fire breaks out, federal agencies have a number of tools at their disposal, from “smokejumpers” who can parachute into remote areas to airtankers that drop fire retardant from the sky.

But those various tactics would be ineffective – if not outright dangerous – without a communications infrastructure available to firefighting crews. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the National Interagency Incident Communications Division (NIICD) are responsible for coordinating communications when federal agencies are managing wildfires.

Source: U.S. Forest Service

What They're Saying: Reaction to NTIA's Assessment of the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal

June 16, 2016 by NTIA

A week ago, NTIA announced that the proposal developed by the Internet multistakeholder community to transition the U.S. Government’s stewardship role for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions met the criteria NTIA outlined in March 2014. The announcement was an important milestone in the U.S. Government’s effort to complete the privatization of the Internet’s domain name system. The transition will help ensure the continued leadership of the private sector in making decisions related to the technical underpinning of the Internet, which has helped the Internet thrive as a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free speech.

NTIA worked with other U.S. Government agencies and conducted a thorough review of the Internet community’s proposal to ensure it met our criteria. NTIA also found that the proposal adequately addressed relevant internal control principles, in a review recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). In addition, a panel of corporate governance experts concluded that the plan is consistent with the sound principles of good governance.

New Insights into the Emerging Internet of Things

June 15, 2016 by Rafi Goldberg and Travis Hall, Policy Analysts, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

From Internet-connected fitness bands and watches to security systems and thermostats, Americans are beginning to use Internet-connected devices, appliances, and objects that are part of a growing category of technology known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

The latest computer and Internet use data collected for NTIA shows that the number of Americans using IoT devices is still small. But we are seeing an interesting snapshot of early adopters. These new insights into how Americans are utilizing IoT are drawn from data collected in July 2015 as part of our Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. As we previously noted in April, few Americans—just 1 percent—reported using a wearable, Internet-connected device, such as a fitness band or watch, as of July 2015. While the market for this type of device is clearly in its early stages, we found notable differences between early adopters of wearable technology and the population as a whole (see Figure 1). Unsurprisingly, wearable device users exhibited many characteristics associated with higher levels of computer and Internet use. Wearable device users tended to have higher education and family income levels compared with all Americans, and they were more likely to live in metropolitan areas.

Finding Common Ground on UAS

May 19, 2016 by Angela Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

More than a year ago, President Obama asked NTIA to convene stakeholders to help develop best practices to address privacy, transparency and accountability issues related to private and commercial use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

I want to join Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in congratulating the stakeholders who reached consensus yesterday on a set of best practices that will help guide the development and growth of UAS in the United States. I also want to thank everyone who put in the many hours of work throughout this process. Multistakeholder processes only succeed through stakeholders’ dedication, hard work and willingness to compromise.

UAS holds the potential to provide significant benefits to both industry and consumers in myriad ways. These include using UAS to inspect cell phone towers without risking human lives, monitor crop growth and take aerial photos of real estate.

The best practices agreed to by a diverse group of stakeholders -- including  privacy and consumer advocates, industry, news organizations and trade associations --  represent an important step in building consumer trust, giving users the tools to innovate in this space in a manner that respects privacy, and providing accountability and transparency.

NTIA Seeks Input on Positions to the 2016 ITU World Standardization Assembly

May 17, 2016 by

This fall, NTIA will be joining the U.S. delegation, led by the U.S. Department of State, to an international conference that will consider issues that could impact international telecommunications standards and Internet-related policy issues.

NTIA is currently engaged in a collaborative process with the State Department to develop formal U.S. proposals and positions for the International Telecommunication Union’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), which takes place every four years. The WTSA, which runs from October 25-November 3, will set the overall strategic direction for the ITU’s telecommunications standards (ITU-T) work for the next four years.

As the President’s principal advisor on telecommunications and information policy issues, NTIA promotes policies that will help the Internet and the digital economy continue to grow and thrive as a platform for innovation, economic growth and free expression. Given this mission, NTIA wants to ensure that its contributions to the U.S. preparatory process result in proposals to the WTSA that accurately reflect the views and concerns of U.S. businesses and consumers about the Internet and the digital economy and also will help support economic growth and innovation. We also want to ensure that the work plan agreed upon at the WTSA related to upcoming ITU-T work does not duplicate the standards development processes of other bodies. 

China’s Internet Domain Name Measures and the Digital Economy

May 16, 2016 by Daniel Sepulveda and Lawrence E. Strickling

This post was cross posted to the State Department’s blog:

China is a force in the global digital economy and an important player in global Internet policy discussions. Today, more than 700 million people have access to the Internet in China, more than any country in the world. Several of the most valuable Internet-based companies call China home.  Global innovators and service providers from around the world, including from the United States, are eager to enter its market.

That’s why it is incredibly important that China use its power and influence in a manner that supports the continued development of the global Internet and the prosperity of its domestic digital economy. 

Both of our countries participate actively in a range of international organizations and processes that discuss the global development and deployment of the Internet.  We have both argued that the current processes, which rely on the cooperation of all stakeholders including government, industry, and civil society, are working effectively for the Internet’s future development and management.

However, the Chinese government’s recent actions run contrary to China’s stated commitments toward global Internet governance processes as well as its stated goals for economic reform.