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Blog Category: National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Commerce Department Supports Puerto Rico as part of President’s Interagency Task Force

Guest blog post by Rick Wade, senior adviser to Secretary Locke, deputy chief of staff, and member of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status

Today the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status submitted a report to President Obama and Congress that provides recommendations for addressing Puerto Rico’s political status and economic climate. The report identifies specific proposals for boosting economic development, building competitive industries, and improving the quality of life for the people of Vieques – a Puerto Rican island-municipality in the northeastern Caribbean.

These recommendations, along with plans for their implementation, follow two public hearings held in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as well as meetings with island officials and other stakeholders to gather input directly from a broad cross section of voices on the issues of Puerto Rico’s status and economic development.

The report underlines the fact that Puerto Rico’s political status continues to be of great importance to its people. Its economy – like many others – has also faced significant challenges in recent years, driving the need for a greater focus on economic progress in the U.S. territory. Per capita income in Puerto Rico remains at less than one-third of that in the United States, due in part to its low employment rate and persistently low rate of labor force participation.

The U.S. Department of Commerce will be intensely involved in implementing the recommendations of the Task Force’s report. Six of the department’s 12 bureaus will lead projects in support of economic growth in Puerto Rico. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will help develop an interagency team that works to connect Puerto Ricans to broadband Internet. The International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center in San Juan will help Puerto Rico increase its exports. And the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis will help Puerto Rico update its methodology for calculating gross domestic product so it aligns with U.S. standards and better captures economic conditions there.

Commerce Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Visits Department Campuses in Boulder

Acting Deputy Blank shown on tour with mechanical equipment

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Boulder, Colorado this week to visit some of the department’s state-of-the-art facilities run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Her four-hour tour included stops at the nation’s time standard, NIST's F-1 Cesium Fountain Clock; the quantum devices group where NIST scientists study and make volt standards, photon detectors and quantum computing chips; the temperature, humidity and vibration controlled Precision Measurement Lab, under construction at NIST and due to be completed in the spring of 2012; and NTIA's radio, video and audio labs at the Public Safety Communications research facility.

At NOAA, Blank saw demonstrations of a unique visualization tool, Science on a Sphere; toured the Space Weather Prediction Center and the National Weather Service’s Forecast Research Center; viewed a demonstration of the wind profiler model; and visited the Global Monitoring Division and the Environmental Data Archive.

The cutting-edge work that takes place at the department impacts the daily lives of the American people – from the accurate timekeeping ability of the Atomic Clock to high-tech weather forecasting capabilities to the continuous improvement of communications devices used by first responders. The scientists and researchers at NIST, NTIA and NOAA are leaders in research and development and help to keep the United States at the forefront of innovation and global leadership.

Laying a Foundation to Double Our Exports, Increase Competitiveness

Today Secretary Locke wrote an op-ed posted in The Hill with a focus on how the administration and the Commerce Department are working to increase America's global competitiveness and create U.S. jobs by selling more American-made goods and services around the world.

Cross posted at The Hill

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As 2011 begins, the American economy is stronger than at any time since the Great Recession began in December 2007.

Retail sales just had their strongest quarterly gain since 2001. Private sector employment grew every single month in 2010, with the manufacturing sector posting its first increase in annual employment since 1997.

These are strong indications that the steps President Obama took to foster economic recovery are working — beginning with the Recovery Act and continuing through the December 2010 tax-cut package.

But that’s not to suggest that anyone within the administration or the Commerce Department is satisfied — not with unemployment still over 9 percent.

As we move forward, policymakers should remember that the most important contest is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between America and countries around the world that are competing like never before for the jobs and industries of the future.

Making the U.S. more competitive will require us to focus on two things: supercharging innovation and selling more American-made goods and services around the world, so that U.S. firms can hire more workers and reinvest in the research and development they need to keep growing.

Although the private sector will take the lead on innovation, we can’t forget that the government has always had an important, supportive role to play, and the Commerce Department is engaged in a variety of areas.

Released: Policy Framework for Protecting Consumer Privacy Online While Supporting Innovation

The Department of Commerce today issued a report detailing initial policy recommendations aimed at promoting consumer privacy online while ensuring the Internet remains a platform that spurs innovation, job creation, and economic growth.  The report outlines a dynamic framework to increase protection of consumers’ commercial data and support innovation and evolving technology. The Department is seeking additional public comment on the plan to further the policy discussion and ensure the framework benefits all stakeholders in the Internet economy.

“America needs a robust privacy framework that preserves consumer trust in the evolving Internet economy while ensuring the Web remains a platform for innovation, jobs, and economic growth. Self-regulation without stronger enforcement is not enough. Consumers must trust the Internet in order for businesses to succeed online.” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Today’s report, based on extensive public input and discussion, recognizes the growing economic and social importance of preserving consumer trust in the Internet.  Global online transactions are currently estimated at $10 trillion annually. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of domestic IT jobs grew by 26 percent – four times faster than U.S. employment as a whole – with IT employment projected to increase another 22 percent by 2018.

The following are key recommendations in today’s preliminary report, Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework:

  • Consider Establishing Fair Information Practice Principles comparable to a “Privacy Bill of Rights” for Online Consumers
  • Consider Developing Enforceable Privacy Codes of Conduct in Specific Sectors with Stakeholders; Create a Privacy Policy Office in the Department of Commerce
  • Encourage Global Interoperability to Spur Innovation and Trade
  • Consider How to Harmonize Disparate Security Breach Notification Rules
  • Review the Electronic Communications Privacy Act for the Cloud Computing Environment

Read the more detailed press release.  |  Learn more about and read the report.

Commerce Official Says Online Consumer Privacy is Critical to a Strong Digital Economy

Both industry and public interest groups agree that online consumer privacy should be strengthened, said Daniel Weitzner, NTIA’s Associate Administrator for Policy. Speaking in Washington D.C. today, Weitzner said that public response to the Commerce Department’s inquiry into online privacy underscores the need to bolster privacy in a manner that continues to ensure the Web remains a platform for innovation, jobs, and economic growth.

Weitzner said that the Commerce Department’s decision to address online privacy and other Internet policy issues stems from the significant and growing social and economic contributions that the Internet makes to our lives. For example, domestic online transactions are currently estimated to total $3.5 trillion annually, and digital commerce is a leading source of job growth.  “Preserving consumer trust is essential to the sustainability and continued growth of the digital economy,” said  Weitzner.

Based on stakeholder feedback gained through the Commerce Department’s inquiry, Weitzner outlined an approach that can promote innovation while increasing consumer trust, including committing to baseline privacy principles and convening stakeholders to develop voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct to implement those principles.

America's Broadband Opportunity: Today the Administration is Freeing Up a Chunk of New Wireless Spectrum

This morning an opinion editorial co-written by Secretary Locke and Larry Summers ran in the Wall Street Journal. It explains the value of opening up additional wireless spectrum for innovation and economic growth.

Read the Ten-Year Plan, the Fast Track Evaluation, and learn about opening up more spectrum.

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Wireless Transmission TowerRarely is there an opportunity to simultaneously catalyze private-sector investment, help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and increase much needed government revenue. President Obama is seizing just such an opportunity with his commitment to nearly double the amount of available commercial wireless spectrum over the next 10 years. Today, the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will take the first step by announcing a plan to free up 115 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum.

Spectrum is fast becoming a pillar of America's digital infrastructure. It has enabled the mobile broadband revolution. All of our smart phones, netbooks, and the "apps" they support depend on the availability of wireless spectrum.

But while demand for America's spectrum resources is increasing at rapid rates—the amount of information flowing over some wireless networks is growing at over 250 percent per year—there has not been a corresponding increase in supply. This congestion has led to more dropped calls and slower data rates.

New Commerce Department Report Shows Broadband Adoption Rises Though 'Gap' Persists

Cover of Digital Nation II reportThe Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released a new report that analyzes broadband Internet access and adoption across the United States. “Digital Nation II” – the most comprehensive study of its kind – finds that socio-economic factors such as income and education levels, although strongly associated with broadband Internet use, are not the sole determinants of use. Even after accounting for socioeconomic differences, significant gaps remain along racial, ethnic and geographic lines.

According to the report, seven out of ten American households used the Internet in 2009. The majority of these households used broadband to access the Internet at home. However, almost one-fourth of all households did not have an Internet user.

The report analyzes data collected through an Internet Usage Survey of 54,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2009. Earlier this year, NTIA released initial findings from the survey, which showed that while virtually all demographic groups have experienced rising broadband Internet adoption at home and 64 percent of households overall have broadband at home, historic disparities among demographic groups have persisted over time.

Read the full report | Release

Commerce Officials Address Privacy and Innovation at International Conferences

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling today addressed privacy and innovation at the 32nd International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. In his keynote address, Strickling stressed that preserving trust in the Internet is imperative for its sustainability and continued growth. He noted, for example, that “if users do not trust that their personal information is safe on the Internet, they will worry about using new services. If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected, they will threaten to stop putting it online.”

Strickling called for technologists and entrepreneurs, privacy and consumer advocates, business interests, and the government to work together to develop a privacy policy. He envisions “a strong role for voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct, which must be developed through open, multi-stakeholder processes."

Stressing the importance of engaging the international community on privacy, Strickling added, “The time for greater international cooperation is here. All nations, including the United States, must be ready to work together and begin a proactive and productive dialogue on privacy reform efforts.” (Full Remarks)

Earlier this week, Department of Commerce General Counsel Cam Kerry participated in the keynote panel of the 30th Annual OECD Privacy Guidelines Conference and expressed a desire to create a global environment that protects privacy. (Full Remarks)

Secretary Locke Announces Initiative to Keep Internet Open for Innovation and Trade at Cybersecurity Forum

Secretary Locke speaking at cybersecurity forum in GeorgetownSpeaking today at the 5th annual Online Trust and Cybersecurity Forum at Georgetown Univeristy, Secretary Locke announced the official launch of an initiative aimed at preserving the global, free flow of information online to ensure that the Internet remains open for commercial opportunity and innovation. This initiative coincides with President Obama's message today in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in which he reinforced America's commitment to "a free and open Internet."

The Commerce Department is seeking public comment on the extent to which evolving policies from governments around the world may be restricting information on the Internet and inhibiting innovation and economic growth for U.S. companies. The request will seek input from all stakeholders to better understand the types of emerging government policies that restrict online information, how they are adopted, and what impact they have on innovation, job creation, economic development, global trade and investment.


Commerce's NTIA Announces Investments to Expand Internet Access During HBCU Week

Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling will be joined by U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counselor for Access to Justice Laurence Tribe with grant awardeesIt is National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, a time to celebrate educational achievement and opportunity. The Commerce Department’s NTIA today announced a Recovery Act grant to an HBCU, North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, to upgrade broadband service while expanding access to its legal education programs. The nearly $2 million investment will also benefit four partner HBCUs in the state --  Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina A&T University, and Fayetteville State University. 

This is one of two Recovery Act investments announced today that will help bridge the technological divide, improve education, and increase access to legal services. Release  |  Presidential Proclamation