In the coming year, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will continue its focus on three key areas: expanding high speed Internet access and adoption, freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband, and promoting policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for innovation and economic growth. Here are some numbers to illustrate these challenges.
>>Expanding High Speed Internet Access and Adoption
High-speed Internet access and online skills are increasingly necessary to compete in today’s economy, yet many Americans are on the wrong side of the digital divide:
• 80 percent: Approximate amount of Fortune 500 companies that only accept job applications online;
• 60-plus percent: Amount of working Americans who use the Internet as an integral part of their jobs;
• 1 in 3 U.S. households lack high-speed Internet service–that’s more than 100 million Americans cut off from many economic and educational opportunities; and
• 1 in 5 U.S. households don’t use the Internet anywhere – that’s more than 60 million Americans left behind in the 21st century economy.
Thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NTIA is investing nearly $4 billion in about 230 projects to expand broadband access and adoption in communities nationwide. These grant projects are building and upgrading broadband infrastructure, expanding and improving public computer centers, and promoting broadband adoption through computer training and other approaches. Together these investments are laying the groundwork for sustainable economic growth, creating jobs, and preparing more Americans for the 21st century workforce. Grantees report so far:
• 29,000: Miles of broadband infrastructure deployed or upgraded;
• 24,000: New workstations installed in public computer centers;
• 755,000: Hours of training provided in the last quarter alone;
• 220,000: People who received the training in the last quarter; and
• 230,000: New broadband subscribers.
In 2012, we will continue vigorously oversee these projects to ensure they are completed on time, within budget and deliver the promised benefits to the communities they will serve. And we will capture the lessons learned from these projects, which can help inform the larger effort to close the digital divide.
?>> Freeing Up More Spectrum for Wireless Broadband
America’s growing broadband use brings us to NTIA’s second area of focus: spectrum. As mobile broadband usage increases, so does demand for the spectrum that makes wireless communications possible. Our challenge is to make the most efficient use of this finite resource.
• 250 percent: The rate at which the amount of information flowing over some wireless networks is growing each year; and
• 500 megahertz: The amount of additional spectrum that President Obama committed to make available for wireless broadband service within 10 years – that’s nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum available today.
NTIA is working with federal agency partners to implement the president’s spectrum initiative, which will spur investment, economic growth and job creation while supporting the growing demand by consumers and businesses for wireless broadband services. As we make more spectrum available for commercial use, we also will protect the vital federal operations that also rely on spectrum.?While spectrum is an essential component of keeping the online economy growing, so is smart policy making. That is why Internet policy is our third focus.
>> Promoting Policies that Preserve the Internet as an Engine for Innovation and Economic Growth
The annual online retail sales in the United States was $145 billion.
Promoting policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for innovation and economic growth is guided by two principles.??The first principle is trust. It is imperative for the sustainability and continued growth of the Internet that we preserve the trust of all actors on the Internet. For example, if users do not trust that their personal information is safe on the Internet, they may not use it to its full potential. If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected, they may be reluctant to put it online.??
Second, as we find ways to address Internet policy challenges, we want to preserve the flexibility companies need to innovate. We believe multi-stakeholder processes are best suited for striking this balance. By engaging all interested parties – including industry, civil society, academia and government – multi-stakeholder processes encourage broader and more creative problem solving, which is essential when markets and technology are changing as rapidly as they are. They promote speedier, more flexible decision making than is common under traditional, top-down regulatory models which can too easily fall prey to rigid procedures, bureaucracy and stalemate.
We are putting these principles of trust and multi-stakeholder processes into practice as we address a host of issues, including online privacy; the global free flow of information; and the stability and security of the Internet, including the domain name system – all with the goal of sustaining an open, interconnected global Internet that remains a force for economic growth.
In 2012, NTIA stands ready to tackle these challenges in the year ahead.
(Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on NTIA’s Web site at www.ntia.doc.gov)