Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: Broadband

Digital Nation Report Shows Rapid Adoption of Mobile Internet Use

Digital Nation Report

A report released today by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) found that Americans are rapidly embracing mobile Internet devices such as smart phones and tablet computers for a wide range of activities beyond just voice communications, such as checking email and using social networks.

NTIA’s “Exploring the Digital Nation: Embracing the Mobile Internet,” which is based on a U.S. Census Bureau survey in October 2012 of more than 53,000 households, found that Americans were increasingly using their mobile devices to engage in applications that they might have previously done on a desktop or laptop computer or not at all. Between July 2011 and October 2012, the report found big increases in mobile phone users 25 and older who used their devices to download mobile applications (22 percent to 32 percent), browse the Web (33 percent to 42 percent), check their email (33 percent to 43 percent), and use social networks (22 percent to 30 percent).

Mobile phones appear to be helping to narrow the digital divide, the gap between the technology haves and have nots, among traditionally disadvantaged groups. Mobile phone use among those with family incomes below $25,000 and among disabled Americans each increased by 4 percentage points, growing from 73 percent to 77 percent and from 68 percent to 72 percent, respectively. Similarly, mobile phone use among seniors 65 and older grew by 4 percentage points between 2011 and 2012, from 68 percent to 72 percent.

Disparities in mobile phone adoption that remained between whites and minorities appeared to nearly vanish between 2011 and 2012. The report found that 88 percent of whites reported using mobile phones in 2012, compared with 87 percent of both African Americans and Hispanics.

Mobile phone use among rural Americans also grew by 5 percentage points to 85 percent between 2011 and 2012. Mobile phone use among urban Americans increased more slowly during this same period, from 86 percent to 88 percent, matching the 2 percentage-point increase to 88 percent in mobile phone use among all Americans 25 and older.

NTIA Brings Broadband Opportunities to Alaska

Chevak village elder Maggie Atcherian displays her native artwork for sale online

Guest Blog Post by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Last week, I traveled to Anchorage for the annual economic summit hosted by the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, a non-profit regional economic development organization. The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference is working to improve the quality of life and drive responsible development across the Alaska Peninsula, the Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay, the Kodiak Archipelago and the Pribilof Islands. 

Last week’s summit had a packed agenda, covering everything from energy conservation to sustainable fishing practices. One big topic of conversation was broadband and the power of high-speed Internet to open up economic, educational and social opportunities in some of the poorest, most isolated communities in our nation. 

It’s no wonder that the Alaska state nickname is “The Last Frontier.” The state is more than double the size of Texas, with more than 3 million lakes, 34,000 miles of shoreline, and 29,000 square miles of ice fields. But with fewer than 750,000 residents, Alaska includes some of the most remote, sparsely populated pockets of the U.S. Many Alaska Natives reside in tiny villages with just a few hundred people and lead subsistence lifestyles. 

Broadband offers these communities a way to connect with the wider world and access everything from online classes to healthcare services to job opportunities. It also offers Alaska Natives a way to preserve their indigenous culture for future generations and share it with a global audience. 

At the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, we see first-hand evidence of this through our investments in several Alaska broadband projects:

With funding from NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Library established public computer centers at 97 public libraries across the state. The federal investment helped pay for computers and terrestrial and satellite Internet connections, as well as an innovative videoconferencing network. It also helped pay for digital literacy training to help local residents take advantage of everything from electronic commerce and e-government services to online job interviews and distance education offerings. 

The Online with Libraries – or Alaska OWL – project is using the new videoconferencing capability in all sorts of creative ways. The Juneau Library organized a virtual field trip for local children to see dinosaurs on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. The Unalaska City Library hosted a session for students in a local high school carpentry class to learn about a union apprenticeship program from the training coordinator for the Anchorage-based Local 367 of the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Union. And libraries in Craig, Haines and Kenai have used the system to facilitate an interactive Shakespeare “Reader’s Theater,” with patrons at each of the libraries taking turns reading play passages. 

Breaking Down the Urban-Rural Broadband Divide

Cover of May 2013 report

Cross-post by David Beede, Research Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration and Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

While broadband availability has expanded for all parts of the United States, NTIA data has consistently shown that urban areas have greater access to broadband at faster speeds than rural areas. In a new report released today, NTIA and the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) delve deeper into the differences between broadband availability in rural and urban areas.

This latest report is part of a series from NTIA that examines broadband availability data in greater detail. One key finding of the new report suggests that, in many cases, the closer a community lies to a central city, the more likely it is to have access to broadband at higher speeds. This is significant because some lower-density communities are located closer to the central city of a metropolitan area and have more access to faster broadband speeds than higher-density communities that are more distant from a central city.

Rural areas can be either within metropolitan areas (exurbs) or outside of metro areas (very rural areas), and while they each have approximately the same share of the total population (more than 9 percent) there is a wide gap in broadband availability between these two types of communities. The report shows that in 2011, 76 percent of residents in exurbs, which generally ring suburbs, had access to basic wireline broadband, defined as advertised speeds of 3 Mbps download and 768 kbps upload. In contrast, 65 percent of very rural residents, who live outside of metropolitan areas, had basic wired service. This disparity between exurban and very rural areas is even greater when it comes to access to much faster broadband service of at least 25 Mpbs. Only 18 percent of very rural residents had access to broadband at this speed compared to nearly 38 percent of exurban residents.  There are also significant gaps between exurbs and very rural areas when it comes to access to wireless broadband.  

NTIA Recovery Act Broadband Grantees Recognized at White House Ceremony as Innovators in Infrastructure

Photo: Don Welch (Merit), Assistant Secretary Strickling, Joe Freddoso (MCNC), Rob Mancini (District of Columbia), Elwood Downing (Merit), Dave Lambert (Internet2/UCAID), Greg Urban (State of Maryland).

Yesterday, two NTIA Recovery Act broadband grantees were among  11 local leaders from across the country honored at the White House as “Champions of Change.” Joe Freddoso, President and CEO of MCNC, and Donald Welch, President and CEO of Merit Network Inc, were recognized for using innovative techniques to develop valuable projects helping to improve America’s infrastructure.

Merit Network and MCNC both received Recovery Act grants from NTIA for broadband infrastructure projects that are currently underway and connecting community anchor institutions in Michigan and North Carolina, including schools, libraries, and hospitals, to high-speed Internet.  Under the leadership of Welch and Freddoso, Merit and MCNC have put hundreds of people to work and are laying the groundwork for sustainable economic growth and improved education, healthcare, and public safety.

Commerce's NTIA: Small Agency, Big Impact

NTIA logo

Guest blog post by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

In the 21st century global economy, America’s competitiveness requires a modern communications infrastructure, a technology-savvy workforce, and public policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for job creation, innovation, and economic growth.  NTIA’s activities–at a cost of about a penny per month for each American–represent a modest yet critical investment in our economic future, one that can pay dividends for decades.
Broadband Internet is an essential ingredient not only for job creation but also for improving education, public safety, and health care. Consider this:

NTIA is a small agency, but we are playing a central role in helping America harness the power of the Internet to meet these national objectives. Our work is focused in three areas: maximizing spectrum use, expanding broadband access and adoption, and policymaking to support the continued growth of the Internet economy.

New Promise for Rural North Carolina

State and local officials celebrate groundbreaking with shovelsful of earth (Photo credit: MCNC)

Guest blog post by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, NTIA

Last Friday, I visited Kannapolis, North Carolina to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of an infrastructure project that will deploy or improve broadband networks throughout much of the state, particularly in rural areas. The effort is led by MCNC, a nonprofit broadband provider that has operated the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) for more than 25 years. The project—funded by a $104 million Recovery Act investment and $40 million in private sector matching funds—will deploy approximately 1,650 miles of new fiber. Combined with upgraded facilities, the project will add 2,600 miles of new or improved infrastructure to MCNC’s network, extending broadband to nearly 1,200 community anchor institutions, including universities, schools, community colleges, libraries, healthcare providers, and public safety facilities.  Nearly 500 of those anchor institutions have already benefitted from improved access to the broadband network.

Broadband Investment in Massachusetts Paving Way for Jobs of the Future

Anna M. Gomez with Mass. State Senator Ben Downing and Governor Deval Patrick at the MassBroadband 123 kick-off in Sandisfield, Mass.

Guest blog post by Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, NTIA

This week construction began on a fiber-optic network that will bring broadband Internet service to more than 120 communities in western and north central Massachusetts. Thanks in large part to a $45.4 million Recovery Act investment from NTIA, the project will help residents and businesses in these underserved parts of the state to better compete in today’s knowledge-based economy.

On Tuesday, I joined state and local officials, members of the project team at the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (a state-created organization that is our grantee), businesses, and others in the community to discuss the initiative, called MassBroadband 123. It will deploy broadband service to nearly 1,400 community anchor institutions, including schools, community colleges, libraries, healthcare providers, and public safety facilities – like the Sandisfield Fire Station where we met, and whose fire chief has emphasized the importance of up-to-date technology for keeping residents safe.

Building Opportunities for Latino Businesses

Anna Gomez Addresses the Latin Tech-Net Initiative

Guest blog post by Anna Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

On Tuesday, I joined a group of Hispanic community development leaders in San Francisco to launch the Latino Tech-Net Initiative, a Recovery Act project spearheaded by the Mission Economic Development Agency, or MEDA, which is equipping 17 computer centers in 11 cities across the country with equipment, software, and training to help Latino entrepreneurs and small businesses build online skills, spur local economic development, and support job creation in their communities.

The “digital divide” remains a serious issue for the Latino community, and MEDA is on the front lines of addressing this problem. Data from NTIA’s Digital Nation report show that the broadband adoption rate among Hispanic households is only 56.9 percent - more than ten percent lower than the overall national rate. In fact, even after adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics like income and education, Latino households significantly lag White households in broadband adoption.

Through Recovery Act projects like Latino Tech-Net, we are working to bridge the technology gap among economically vulnerable populations such as minorities, low-income communities, people with disabilities and seniors. We know there is no simple ‘one size fits all’ solution to closing the digital divide and that a combination of targeted approaches makes sense.

Digital Literacy Initiative Aims to Help Americans Build Online Skills

Guest blog post by Anneesh Chopra, White House Chief Technology Officer, and Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the Department of Commerce

Today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke launched DigitalLiteracy.gov, a new online portal to help Americans find jobs and obtain the 21st century skills being sought by today’s employers.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) developed DigitalLiteracy.gov in partnership with nine Federal agencies, with the goal of creating an online hub for librarians, educators, and other digital literacy practitioners to share content and best practices. Through DigitalLiteracy.gov, NTIA is making available to all Americans the methods for improving broadband adoption that are being developed by Recovery Act projects.

NTIA Administrator Strickling Addresses Broadband Program Progress

Administrator Stricking on podium
At an event in Washington, D.C. today, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling described the progress of broadband stimulus projects, noting that Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantees have thus far installed more than 4,000 computers for public use and provided computer training to more than 65,000 people.
“These Recovery Act projects are already providing an essential link to economic and educational opportunities for thousands of Americans,” said Strickling.