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Blog Category: National Telecommunications and Information Administration

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

State Broadband Grants Are Helping States Embrace Digital Government

Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

Cross-post from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration 

The following blog was written by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

With the Internet on our phones, our tablets, at the office and in our homes, most Americans have come to expect that our government, too, will be online. Still, whether it’s due to a lack of resources or skepticism over the need, some local governments have yet to fully embrace the potential of e-Government.

As part of our efforts to expand broadband access and adoption, NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative (SBI) has been working with states to help them provide the tools for citizens to participate in government online. These efforts are providing real benefits for consumers in many states, including allowing residents to communicate with government officials, make online tax or fine payments, and access numerous government forms.

With NTIA’s state broadband grants, states have taken a variety of approaches to helping localities better utilize the Internet. In Arkansas, Connect Arkansas, a nonprofit corporation focused on increasing broadband adoption and access, has used an SBI grant to work with 17 counties to help them launch engaging, transactional, and informational websites or to enhance existing sites. Six Arkansas counties have launched or are expected to launch new e-Government websites by the end of the year. 

Often, the savings created by a new or expanded website offsets the costs of creating and maintaining these sites by allowing county and city employees to spend less time taking in-person payments or answering questions over the phone. Since the launch of the property tax feature on its new e-government website in March 2012, Sharp County, Ark., has collected $360,000 in property taxes online.  This new feature has saved county staff as much as a full week in time as well as postage and stationery fees, according to County Collector Charlotte Ratliff.

Incentives to Support Adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework

Guest post by Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to the President and the Cybersecurity Coordinator. Cross-post from Whitehouse.gov

The systems that run our nation’s critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, our drinking water, our trains, and other transportation are increasingly networked. As with any networked system, these systems are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and protecting this critical infrastructure from cyber threats is among our highest security priorities. That is why, earlier this year, the President signed an Executive Order designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. The Order does this by focusing on three key areas: information sharing, privacy, and adoption of cybersecurity practices.

To promote cybersecurity practices and develop these core capabilities, we are working with critical infrastructure owners and operators to create a Cybersecurity Framework – a set of core practices to develop capabilities to manage cybersecurity risk. These are the known practices that many firms already do, in part or across the enterprise and across a wide range of sectors. The draft Framework will be complete in October. After a final Framework is released in February 2014, we will create a Voluntary Program to help encourage critical infrastructure companies to adopt the Framework. 

While this effort is underway, work on how to incentivize companies to join a Program is also under consideration. While the set of core practices have been known for years, barriers to adoption exist, such as the challenge of clearly identifying the benefits of making certain cybersecurity investments. As directed in the EO, the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Treasury have identified potential incentives and provided their recommendations to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs.

Administration Advances Wireless Spectrum for Economic Growth

Wireless Spectrum Tower

Cross-post by Tom Power and Lawrence E. Strickling

President Obama today issued a Presidential Memorandum that builds on the Administration’s commitment to make additional spectrum available for wireless broadband to drive innovation, expand consumer services, and increase job creation and economic growth.  The memorandum establishes a set of measures that Federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will now take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. 

Many of the new measures are common-sense ways to improve spectrum efficiency.  Under the memorandum, an agency that requests a new spectrum assignment or that seeks to procure a spectrum-dependent system will have to document its consideration of alternative approaches and verify that it is pursuing the most spectrum-efficient method, in consideration of all relevant factors including cost and agency mission. 

Other aspects of the memorandum build on existing strategies, particularly with respect to advancing collaboration with the private sector and other stakeholders.   Since 2010 the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which manages Federal agency spectrum assignments, has been implementing the President’s directive to identify 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband by convening agency-industry working groups that are engaged in unprecedented discussions  aimed at increasing spectrum efficiency and providing access to certain federally assigned spectrum bands for consumer wireless broadband.  Today’s memorandum directs NTIA to expand that collaborative process to encompass additional bands.  Towards this end, NTIA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop policies and best practices to promote and facilitate greater collaboration among agencies, the private sector, and academia with respect to research, development, testing, and evaluation of spectrum-sharing technologies.   Helping accelerate the pace of technological change, the White House announced $100 million in upcoming and proposed Federal investments in public-private research and development of spectrum sharing and other advanced communications technologies. 

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.  

A Chance to Comment on Commerce’s Report on Cybersecurity Incentives

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

As part of the Executive Order  signed by President Obama last month directing agencies to use their existing authorities and work with the private sector to better protect our nation’s power, water, and other critical systems, the Commerce Department is preparing a report on ways to incentivize companies and organizations to improve their cybersecurity.  To better understand what stakeholders –  such as companies, trade associations, academics and others – believe would best serve as incentives, the Department has released a series of questions to gather  public comments in a Notice of Inquiry published today.

The national and economic security of the United States depends on the strength of our nation’s critical infrastructure. The cyber threat to critical infrastructure is growing, and represents one of the most serious national security challenges that the United States must confront. As the President stated in the Executive Order, “repeated cyber intrusions into America’s critical infrastructure demonstrate a need for improved cybersecurity.”

As a first step toward protecting critical infrastructure, the Executive Order tasks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify the systems that could be affected by a cybersecurity incident which could in catastrophic regional or national effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security.  Second, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop a framework consisting of a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks. This Cybersecurity Framework will provide a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, performance-based, and cost-effective approach to improving cybersecurity, which will help owners and operators of critical infrastructure identify, assess and mange cyber risk. Third, DHS will work with sector-specific agencies to develop the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Program to promote voluntary adoption of the Framework.

Acting Secretary Blank Names Members of First National Public Safety Broadband Board in Minnesota

Image of logo, First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was in Minneapolis, MN, today to address attendees at the Opening General Session of the 78th Annual Conference and Expo hosted by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International.

In addition to thanking America’s first responders and public safety officials for keeping our country safe and secure, Acting Secretary Blank announced that she appointed twelve of the nation’s leading experts on public safety and wireless broadband communications to serve on the Board of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

Driving Broadband Adoption in the Latino Community

Anna Gomez (left), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, at the recent NALEO conference.

Cross-posted from NTIA blog by Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) about NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the work it is doing to promote broadband adoption in the Latino community.

A high-speed Internet connection can provide access to everything from online job postings to educational opportunities to valuable healthcare information. But too many Latino households remain cut off from these important benefits.

NTIA, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, conducts some of the most extensive survey work on broadband adoption trends in the U.S. Our most recent survey, in October of 2010, found that 72 percent of White households nationwide subscribed to broadband, compared with only 57 percent of Hispanic households. The survey also found that socioeconomic factors such as income and education do not fully explain the gap. Even after accounting for these factors through regression analysis, Hispanic households still lag White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points on a nationwide basis.

22 Ways the Department Of Commerce Is Supporting and Fostering American Innovation

RIANO logo

In an increasingly competitive world, the United States must invest in its best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so that they innovate here, make things here, and create good paying, high quality jobs for middle class families. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus are supporting and fostering innovation at all stages of product development, from original research through to final manufactured goods.

Commerce’s Economic Development Agency has launched two grant challenges, the i6 Challenge and the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, to move ideas from the lab and shop floor to the marketplace at an accelerated rate. Supporting this work is the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network, a web-based tool to help economic development professionals promote entrepreneurship, business development, and technology commercialization in their region.

In April 2010, the Commerce Department launched the Internet Policy Task Force to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation. In doing so, it has produced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, made important steps forward for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, started a conversation about privacy concerns within mobile apps, and worked to combat Botnets that threaten internet security. To ensure continued Internet security, Commerce has opened a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

Commerce Department’s NTIA Announces First Privacy Multistakeholder Process Topic

Friday, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced the first topic for the multistakeholder process called for by the Obama Administration's Consumer Privacy Blueprint.  On July 12th, 2012, NTIA will convene stakeholders to begin developing codes of conduct to provide transparency in how companies providing applications and interactive services for mobile devices handle personal data.  More information about the first multistakeholder process is available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/headlines/2012/first-privacy-multistakeholder-meeting-july-12-2012, and a blog post from NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling is available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2012/putting-consumer-privacy-bill-rights-practice.