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Broadband: The Electricity of the 21st Century

President Barack Obama with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker views demonstration of fiber optic spicing at Cedar Falls Utilities in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jan. 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross blog post by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, The White House Blog

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, American business owners, scientists, and entrepreneurs have driven our economy forward and kept the United States leading the way in innovation and global competition. A thread woven through the fabric of our national identity has been having the most productive and highly skilled workforce in the world.

A 21st-century America should be no different.

In order to help revitalize a struggling American economy in the post-Depression 1930s, the Rural Electrification Act called for a push to electrify rural areas. Connecting otherwise hard-to-reach communities through electricity and telephone services gave them the ability to more easily compete on both the national and global economic stage. It was an idea as deeply important to the viability of 20th-century rural America as telecommunications and broadband Internet access is today.

For most Americans, the click of a mouse is all it takes to open the door to a world of up-to-the-minute information and global commerce. In remote communities in particular, broadband brings with it new access to health care, education, and economic opportunities that have not been available in the past. But there are still many for whom this is not yet a reality.

In our travels across the country, time and time again we hear stories of the positive impacts of our work building a strong, secure infrastructure. Investments in broadband access have helped our workforce keep up with the increasingly fast speed of business and ensured that our rural communities remain competitive and attractive to new investors.

Since 2009, USDA has invested in new and improved broadband service to 1.49 million rural residents. That means expanded access to state-of-the-art health care, educational and cultural resources, and the opportunity for local businesses to compete in the global economy. In addition to core investments in broadband infrastructure, USDA has financed technologies that rely on broadband to ensure that rural Americans have access to 21st-century technology for education, health, and day-to-day life. For example, since 2009, our investments have helped more than 2,500 rural health care facilities use telemedicine to improve medical services for people living in remote rural areas, and more than 4,600 rural schools implement distance learning technology to expand their reach and improve access to information for thousands of students.

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption. Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress. Commerce grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries. Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than 4 million people, and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.

NTIA Announces BroadbandUSA Effort to Assist Communities with Broadband Plans

NTIA Announces BroadbandUSA Effort to Assist Communities with Broadband Plans

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

Over the past five years, we at NTIA have seen first-hand through our broadband grant program the power of broadband to transform lives and impact communities. Broadband has become a cornerstone of economic growth, providing Americans the tools they need to participate in the rapidly growing digital economy.

NTIA invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption. Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress. Our grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries. Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than four million people and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband. An independent studyreleased by NTIA today shows that these grants are projected to increase economic output by as much as $21 billion annually.

But there’s more work to be done. Investing in broadband is a matter of basic equity. Americans who do not have access to the Internet are increasingly cut off from job opportunities, educational resources, healthcare information and even government services. Communities that do not have high-speed infrastructure are increasingly at a disadvantage in attracting new businesses and new jobs and competing in today’s knowledge-based economy. Since 2009, broadband adoption has increased more than 12 percent in the United States and stands at 72 percent according to our latest reported data. That is a healthy growth rate but it still means that almost a quarter of U.S. households are not online at home.  

President Obama today is announcing a number of additional steps to help more Americans get access to fast, affordable and reliable broadband. And at NTIA, rest assured that we will remain at the forefront of federal efforts to ensure that all Americans share in the promise and potential of the digital economy. We’ve learned about what works and we’ve heard what communities need. And we’re eager to share the knowledge and expertise we’ve accumulated over the last few years. Today I’m happy to unveil our BroadbandUSA initiative aimed at finding new ways to assist communities seeking to ensure their citizens have the broadband capacity they need to advance economic development, education, health care, and public safety. 

Commerce and White House Ramp-Up Efforts to Open More Markets to American Goods and Services

Exports are a vital part of the Obama Administration’s economic growth agenda, therefore, the Commerce Department and the White House hosted a fly-in that brought business leaders from around the country to Washington for a panel discussion on ways to send more products stamped “Made in America” around the world. More than 60 small-medium-sized business leaders representing various industries were in attendance.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a roundtable discussion about how trade benefits the communities in which these companies operate and these businesses leaders live. She called on business executives to do what she called “painting the brush strokes of each individual portrait” with their neighbors, customers, and employees to make the case to them that trade is not only a global and national priority – it is also a local opportunity.When business stories such as Inficon’s - an innovative company of 250 employees in Syracuse, New York that exports instrumentation -  are told, it paints the picture that trade does indeed impact the lives and livelihoods of citizens and their communities.

Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live beyond U.S. borders. Secretary Pritzker is leading the charge to make exporting a larger part of the DNA of all American businesses. Key to achieving this goal and at the top of the Administration’s trade agenda is passage of Trade Promotion Authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic-Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  Once completed, TPP is expected to make it easier to sell American products and services to more than 40 percent of global GDP.  T-TIP will cover nations that account for nearly half of the global economy and nearly a third of world trade flows. 

In 2013 exports reached an all-time high of $2.3 trillion with 2014 expected to surpass that record. Trade is a gateway for American businesses to create jobs, grow the economy and bring the markets of the world to the doorsteps of small, medium, and large businesses. The Commerce Department is committed to expanding the global footprint of American businesses and keeping America open for business. 

2015: The Year to Launch and Scale in the United States

SelectUSA Tech in Dublin – Legal, Visa, Insurance and Tax Considerations for U.S. Expansion (June 25, 2014)

By John D. Breidenstine, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs, U.S. Embassy, London

The United Kingdom and Ireland are both home to flourishing tech startups looking for the right opportunities to grow globally.  The United States is the logical target for their expansion, especially given its 320 million consumers, free trade agreements with 20 other markets, and massive market for technology purchases. 

Furthermore, there is plenty of precedent.  Companies from the UK and Ireland have outstanding track records of succeeding in our country. The UK is the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States, with $564.7 billion total stock as of 2013.  According to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, affiliates of UK companies in the United States are responsible for more than 962,900 American jobs.  Ireland is the eighth largest source of FDI, whose investors are responsible for more than $117 billion stock as of 2013 and 168,900 U.S. jobs as of 2012. 

Startups can also tap into the incredible resources available in the United States. Our entrepreneurial culture is the perfect business climate for startups to thrive. Just look at the numbers: According to the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, an average of 476,000 new businesses were created each month in 2013. The United States leads the world in innovation and intellectual property protection, accounting for roughly 30 percent of global research and development (R&D).  In 2012 alone, companies from the U.K. and Ireland combined spent nearly $9 billion on R&D in the United States, contributing significantly to the intellectual diversity of all three countries.

So how can SelectUSA, the U.S. government-wide program to facilitate investment into the United States, help even more companies to make the leap across the Atlantic?  SelectUSA provides information, connects businesses with the right people, and helps investors navigate the federal government (learn more about our full range of services).  In addition, the Commercial Service (CS) in the U.K. and Ireland launched a new initiative in 2014—SelectUSA Tech—to give early-stage technology companies the tools that they need to launch their businesses in the United States.

SelectUSA Tech’s 2014 “boot camp-style” events in London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Belfast brought together public and private-sector experts to address legal, tax, accounting, insurance, and visa/immigration issues, while also covering how tech entrepreneurs can access U.S. buyers, venture capital, debt financing, and general banking services. A final, key component of the events has been a “lessons learned” panel of local startups, who share their experiences launching and scaling stateside.  

For more information about SelectUSA Tech Seminars, check out the flyer from September’s Edinburgh event or the highlights reels from our London or Dublin events.  We also regularly participate in tech conferences and at incubator briefings. For example, over the course of a single week in October, CS UK held a SelectUSA Tech Seminar in Belfast, hosted a LDNY (London-New York Festival) #scaling2cities tech entrepreneur event at the U.S. Embassy, and co-sponsored “The Transatlantic Startup” event organized by the Global Innovation Forum

Startups can also learn more about the U.S. market at the 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit coming up in March, which will enable entrepreneurs to meet with economic development offices from across the United States, all in one building.  The day before the Summit, we’ll also be holding a SelectUSA Academy to present the basics of investing and launching a business in the United States at a level of detail that will be particularly useful for startups and entrepreneurs.

To learn more about our SelectUSA Tech, please follow us on Twitter @SelectUSATech.

Swiss Executives Announce $3 Billion Investment in the United States During Meeting with Secretary Pritzker

Swiss Executives Announce $3 Billion Investment in the United States During Meeting with Secretary Pritzker

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, NEC Director Jeff Zients and Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, hosted a delegation of Swiss business leaders, who are making significant U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. The eight executives announced plans to invest $3 billion in their U.S. operations in 2015. The participants also discussed the importance of job-driven workforce training initiatives, which enhance the United States’ attractiveness as a destination for investment by better enabling employers to hire workers with the necessary skills and providing employers with the technical assistance needed to launch training programs. 

The U.S.-Swiss diplomatic relationship dates back more than 160 years and currently, the U.S.-Swiss trading relationship totals nearly $100 billion annually. The total value of Swiss FDI in the U.S. has more than doubled between 2009 and 2013, growing from $65 billion to $140 billion, making Switzerland the 6th largest source. Additionally, Swiss investors are the top international source of R&D investment in the United States, spending nearly $9.4 billion in 2012. U.S. subsidiaries of Swiss firms employed over 472,200 U.S. workers in 2012, with an average annual salary of over $99,091. The apprenticeship model has become a major tool for developing a skilled workforce. Today’s meeting provided an opportunity for Swiss business leaders to share their experiences with apprenticeships and how that model can be expanded in the U.S. By partnering with Swiss companies to expand and start new registered apprenticeship programs, the pipeline of U.S. workers for in-demand jobs will be strengthened.
 
The investor delegation also covered the importance of SelectUSA, a government effort to attract, retain and expand business investment to and within the United States. SelectUSA leads the Interagency Investment Working Group to ensure investors, get the answers and assistance they need across the federal government. SelectUSA provides services to international investors of all sizes and U.S. state, regional and local economic development organizations (EDOs). The upcoming Summit will showcase investment opportunities from every corner of the United States, while high-profile business and government leaders share their insight on the latest business trends.

Strong Intellectual Property Fuels Investment

Strong Intellectual Property Fuels Investment

Many of the world’s greatest breakthroughs have something in common – strong intellectual property (IP) protection provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In fact, IP protection was included in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers, who deemed it essential for society “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Since Thomas Jefferson— the first patent examiner— reviewed the first U.S. patent, the country has been transformed by ingenuity to become the most open economy in the world where global businesses come to work and innovate on the cutting edge.

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 enables the USPTO to grant patents and trademarks faster and with greater quality and clarity, further strengthening our country’s IP system. The USPTO offers countless resources, including the Track One Prioritized Examination Program for accelerated examination, and the Pro Bono and Pro Se programs, which provide free legal representation and support services for small and independent inventors. The USPTO continually strives to keep costs and fees low.  For a brief overview on the steps necessary to obtain a patent you can refer to our Commerce blog, Five Steps for Protecting your Invention and for a trademark, Six Steps to Protect your Brand. At any time you can receive USPTO assistance by contacting the Inventors Assistance Center.  The USPTO is also very active internationally, working to protect U.S. interests abroad through the IP Attaché Program and collaborating with international IP organizations toward international patent harmonization.

For all these reasons the U.S. intellectual property system has long made America an attractive place to innovate and invest. Companies from around the world leverage the power of the U.S. patent, while supporting the U.S. economy. The strength of the intellectual property environment is an indicator of market potential for inventors and companies to develop their technologies, grow their businesses, and expand sales of their products. That is why we would like to encourage you to attend the SelectUSA Investment Summit in the Washington, DC area on March 23-24, 2015. Investors will find the practical tools, information, and connections they need to establish or expand operations in the United States. SelectUSA was created to work across the U.S. government to attract and retain business investment in the United States in order to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote U.S. competitiveness. Those who choose to invest in the United States can feel secure knowing that there’s a long tradition of protecting valuable intellectual property.

DOC Operating Status for January 12, 2015

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In accordance with the Office of Personnel Management’s Operating Status, Department of Commerce offices in the Washington, DC area are OPEN under 2 hours DELAYED ARRIVAL and employees have the OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK. Employees should plan to arrive for work no more than 2 hours later than they would be expected to arrive.

Non-Emergency Employees who report to the office will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for up to 2 hours past their expected arrival time. In accordance with their bureau/operating unit’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements (as consistent with law), non-emergency employees may notify their supervisor of their intent to use: 

  1. earned annual leave, compensatory time off, credit hours, or sick leave, as appropriate;
  2. leave without pay;
  3. their alternative work schedule (AWS) day off or rearrange their work hours under flexible work schedules; or
  4. unscheduled telework (if telework-ready).

(Employees who request unscheduled leave will be charged leave for the entire workday.)

Telework-Ready Employees who are regularly scheduled to perform telework or who notify their supervisor of their intention to perform unscheduled telework must be prepared to telework for the entire workday, or take unscheduled leave, or a combination of both, for the entire workday in accordance with their bureau/operating unit’s agency's policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements (as consistent with law).

Pre-approved Leave. Employees on pre-approved leave for the entire workday or employees who requested unscheduled leave for the entire workday will be charged leave for the entire day.

Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksite on time unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

More information and details on Operating Status can be viewed online at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/current-status/,

Personnel may also contact the DOC Status Line at 202-482-7400 for recorded updates regarding changes in the Department of Commerce’s operating status.

Commerce Deputy Secretary Andrews’ Visit to Consumer Electronics Show Underscores Importance of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to American Economy

Commerce Deputy Secretary Andrews’ Visit to Consumer Electronics Show Underscores Importance of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to American Economy

Yesterday, U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce Andrews concluded a two-day visit to Las Vegas, where he toured the floor of the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and addressed Las Vegas business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce on the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to the American economy. 

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary Andrews addressed local Las Vegas business leaders at a roundtable organized by Business Forward. He discussed the Department of Commerce’s role in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in pursuing 21st century trade agreement. Deputy Secretary Andrews also spoke about the need for Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority and the need to strengthen the President’s ability to create economic opportunity for U.S. companies and open up key markets for U.S. goods and services. Such agreements can help spur growth; help American manufacturers, service providers, farmers and ranchers; and increase U.S. exports, as well as allow American businesses to compete in a highly competitive, globalized economy. 
 
Following this address, Andrews traveled to the Las Vegas Convention Center where he toured the CES show floor with representatives from the Consumer Electronics Association. There, he saw firsthand how small and medium businesses are developing innovative technologies that have the potential to improve the way kids are educated, enhance home entertainment, and keep America on the cutting edge of research. He met with a mix of U.S. companies at the show, including five small companies that manufacture in the United States and six larger companies.
 
CES showcases more than 4,000 exhibitors, including manufacturers, developers, and suppliers of consumer technology hardware, content, technology delivery systems and more. CES also includes a conference program with more than 300 sessions and draws more than 152,000 attendees from more than 150 countries. The International CES is held in Las Vegas each year, and has served as the proving ground for innovators for more than 40 years.
 
Later that day, Deputy Secretary Andrews attended the Leaders in Technology Reception and Dinner, where he met with the industry’s key representatives and stakeholders.
 
Deputy Secretary Andrews also met with local staff from the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center and sat in on a presentation by a U.S. manufacturer participating in the Global Markets Insight Program, which helps connect businesses with trade partners and succeed abroad.
 
The Deputy Secretary’s participation in CES highlights the importance the Commerce Department and theAdministration place on innovation and entrepreneurship, including through the Department's "Open for Business Agenda." It also underscores the value the Department places on promoting the ideas and policies that support innovation and entrepreneurship, which help America maintain its competitive edge, spur wage and job growth, and strengthen the U.S. economy.

Promoting Spectrum Sharing In the Wireless Broadband Era

Promoting Spectrum Sharing In the Wireless Broadband Era

Cross blog post by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration 

In the summer of 2010 -- just three years after the introduction of the iPhone -- President Obama called on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to collaborate with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to free up critical radio spectrum to fuel the breakneck growth of the wireless broadband market. Today, this directive is more pressing than ever, with the wild popularity of smartphones and tablets driving unprecedented commercial demand for mobile bandwidth.

Identifying the spectrum to keep up is a top priority for NTIA, which manages federal spectrum usage. And promoting spectrum sharing across the public and private sectors is an important key to achieving this goal.

At NTIA, we recognize that spectrum is the lifeblood of the mobile broadband revolution. We are committed to ensuring the industry has the bandwidth it needs to continue to innovate and thrive.

But we face an important balancing act since federal agencies also rely on this precious and finite resource to perform all sorts of mission-critical functions – from communicating with weather satellites (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to navigating passenger planes (Federal Aviation Administration) to operating weapons systems (Defense Department).

Working in consultation with the FCC, which oversees commercial and other non-federal spectrum uses, NTIA has made good progress toward President Obama’s target of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for licensed and unlicensed wireless broadband services by 2020.

Through fiscal year 2014, NTIA had formally recommended or otherwise identified 335 megahertz of spectrum for potential reallocation. That includes spectrum in the 1695-1710 and 1755-1780 bands auctioned off in the FCC’s successful AWS-3 auction.

The auction, which will fund important federal programs and pump billions into the U.S Treasury, showcases the potential for spectrum sharing. While many of the incumbent federal users in the auctioned bands will be relocating to other frequencies, some will instead be sharing their spectrum with new users.

To achieve the President’s goal, we need to move beyond the traditional approach of clearing government-held spectrum of federal users in order to auction it off to the private sector for exclusive use. Too often, relocating incumbent operations is too costly, too time-consuming and too disruptive to federal missions. The future lies in sharing spectrum – across government agencies and commercial services, and across time, geography and other dimensions in the future.

How trade stats can help US businesses expand abroad

Guest blog post by Dale Kelly, Chief of the International Trade Management Division, U.S. Census Bureau

International markets provide an opportunity for U.S. businesses to increase sales and overall competitiveness, but knowing how to get started and learning about foreign markets can be daunting. The U.S. Census Bureau can help.

Although known most widely as the home of the decennial Census of U.S. households, the Census Bureau also is responsible for collecting, compiling, and publishing monthly trade statistics on all goods imported and exported from the United States. Every month, the Census Bureau releases information on the import and export of commodities such as soybeans, corn, rice, chemicals, steel, aircraft, and lumber. Together with the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which collects similar data on services imports and exports, the Census Bureau releases the  “U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services” report. This report provides detailed information on import and export of merchandise by commodity and end-use category as well as by the multitude of countries and areas with which the U.S. conducts international trade. All of these reports are available at the Census Bureau’s foreign trade web page.

How can this information help U.S. businesses? The Census Bureau provides detailed information on more than 9,000 export commodities and 18,000 import commodities. Easily accessible online, this information assists U.S. businesses in making informed decision by tracking the global marketplace for their product and identifying possible opportunities to expand to new markets.

In addition to data, the Census Bureau provides resources and tools to help businesses export. The Census Bureau’s International Trade Management Division conducts outreach and training around the country. Training includes webinars, seminars, workshops, and blog posts on using trade data, understanding foreign trade regulations and utilizing the Automated Export System, which allows the electronic filing of export information directly to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These same data are the source of the Census Bureau’s merchandise export and import statistics. The next two-day training on the Automated Export System begins on January 21 in Houston, Texas.  Trade is a vital part of our economy, and the Census Bureau plays an important role in providing detailed timely information to U.S. businesses to make informed decisions.