The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s BroadbandUSA team convened a productive workshop in Jackson, Miss., last week to explore ways to close the digital divide in a state that continues to expand broadband connectivity and adoption.
The event was the second in a series of regional workshops that NTIA is hosting across the country as part of its new BroadbandUSA program, which is helping communities improve local broadband capacity and utilization.
The new initiative – highlighted by President Obama last month – builds on lessons learned and best practices from NTIA’s successful broadband grant programs, which invested more than $4 billion in network infrastructure, public computer centers, digital literacy training and broadband mapping. BroadbandUSA provides resources – including technical assistance, toolkits and guides – to help communities assess local broadband needs, engage stakeholders, explore business models, evaluate financing options and attract private-sector investment.
The Mississippi workshop - presented in cooperation with the non-profit Connect MS and the Mississippi Economic Development Council – drew panelists and attendees from across the Gulf Region. But much of the focus was on Mississippi, which in 2009 created a statewide taskforce to coordinate efforts on broadband policy.
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 study released 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.
While Native American Heritage Month is celebrated just once a year in November, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been serving America’s Tribal Nations effectively for many years through its grant programs.
One such grant of $3.4 million was made in 2010 to the College of Menominee Nation (the College) through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This Public Computer Center (PCC) project included the construction of a new 10,000 square foot campus Technology Center and upgrades of broadband capacity to serve the more than 5,000 members of the Menominee Tribe, who live in one of Wisconsin’s more rural and economically disadvantaged areas. According to Ron Jurgens, Institutional Research Director for the college, the new facility continues to draw people from the reservation and neighboring counties to use the technology, pursue their educational goals, and take advantage of 100 megabit Internet service. In fact, the center is so popular that the county board voted to relocate the public library on the college campus.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) last week hosted the second in a series of stakeholder workshops as we launch a new initiative to leverage the success of our Recovery Act broadband grant programs and support communities nationwide seeking to build their broadband capacity.
Over the past five years, NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and State Broadband Initiative have invested more than $4 billion in network infrastructure, public computer centers, digital inclusion projects and broadband mapping. These programs have taught us that closing the digital divide is a multi-pronged challenge that demands a comprehensive, holistic approach.
Addressing existing gaps requires not only network availability and robust bandwidth, but also affordable computer equipment and monthly service, effective training and useful applications. It also requires collaboration among many stakeholders, including local, state and federal officials, community leaders, industry executives, private foundations and broadband advocates.
Last week’s workshop, held in Minneapolis, brought together more than 100 stakeholders for a series of informative panel discussions, presentations and networking opportunities. Participants also met with NTIA staff, who will be providing guidance, technical assistance, funding leads and connections to help communities expand broadband access and adoption.
The agenda featured speakers from a number of successful broadband projects in the Upper Midwest, including projects funded by NTIA in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and North Dakota.
Today, we are announcing the second in a series of workshops to share lessons we have learned from our broadband grants programs with communities nationwide seeking to build their broadband capacity.
“It’s been great seeing people come back and say, ‘I’ve been able to get a job,’ after we helped them with sprucing up their résumé and applying for jobs online.” - PCC Staff Member, Las Vegas Urban League
“Without this computer lab, we would not be getting people the jobs that we’re getting them. It’s just a great thing.” - Staff Member, Workforce West Virginia
Last week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act aimed at creating a more flexible and responsive system of workforce development to meet the needs of employers looking to fill 21st century jobs. Ensuring U.S. workers are able to compete and succeed is a key priority at the U.S. Commerce Department. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker served on a task force with Vice President Biden that recently released a report looking at solutions for making the nation’s workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated and effective.
Access to high-speed Internet has become a necessity for communities and businesses, and the latest data from the National Broadband Map shows that broadband continues to be available to more Americans than ever.
Broadband drives economic growth and innovation – including advances in health care, education, and public safety. Since its launch in 2011, the National Broadband Map has been helping businesses and consumers access broadband by detailing where and what types of high-speed Internet services are available in their communities.
Considering wireline and wireless technologies together, the slowest broadband speeds are nearly ubiquitously available, and access to very fast broadband (over 100 Mbps) has now reached two-thirds of Americans. The data, as of December 31, 2013, shows that 99 percent of Americans have access to wired and/or wireless broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps up, though this number drops to 89 percent when considering wireline broadband alone.
After a huge jump between December 2010 and December 2011, the data continues to show a steady increase – primarily attributable to an upgrade in existing cable systems – in the number of communities and businesses that now can access broadband with speeds of at least 100 Mbps. Check out the data yourself below and on the National Broadband Map website, where you can analyze data, look at differences in rural and urban availability and see the differences by technology and speed. All historical data is also available on NTIA’s website or via API.
Today NTIA is hosting the first of several workshops focused on community broadband as we explore ways to build on the momentum of our successful broadband grant programs and look at what comes next.
The 2009 Recovery Act included more than $7 billion to expand access to high-speed Internet services to close the digital divide and spark economic growth. Through our Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, NTIA invested about $4 billion of that in 230 projects across the country that have built critical network infrastructure, opened or upgraded public computer centers and established broadband adoption programs. And through our State Broadband Initiative Program, we invested another almost $300 million to help states collect broadband data for the National Broadband Map and expand their statewide broadband capacity.
Today, these investments are enabling one-to-one computing programs and replacing old-fashioned textbooks with engaging online instructional materials in North Carolina classrooms. They are allowing Arkansas physicians to remotely examine patients located hundreds of miles away in far-flung rural corners of the state. They are supporting digital literacy training in low-income Latino communities across California. And they are bringing 4G LTE wireless broadband service to parts of the Navajo Nation that previously lacked even basic landline phone service.
As of the end of 2013, our grantees had built or upgraded more than 112,000 miles of fiber - enough to circle the earth four and a half times or get you halfway to the moon. They had connected more than 21,000 community anchor institutions, including about 8,000 K-12 schools, 1,300 libraries and 2,400 medical facilities. And they had established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers and helped more than 600,000 households sign up for broadband. At the same time, our State Broadband Initiative Program has supported more than 200 local broadband planning teams across the country.
New Case Studies Show Schools, Libraries and Health Care Providers Play Key Role in Broadband Expansion and Adoption
“With their own laptops, they can do their homework anytime. And then, all of a sudden, you see the homework, you see the projects being done, and the scientific research symposiums that they’re applying to. You see them taking it a little bit further with the scholarship applications.” – MESA Director, Skyline Community College, CA (Foundation for California Community Colleges partner)
In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $450 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers and initiate innovative broadband adoption programs in underserved communities. Four years later, that investment has resulted in more than 3,000 new or improved public computer centers and produced 600,000 new household broadband subscriptions.
These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments from NTIA that have enabled BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 21,000 community anchor institutions with ultra-fast broadband, including 2,400 medical and health care providers, more than 1,300 libraries, and 8,000 K-12 schools. BTOP has provided a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative to link all schools to high-speed Internet by 2018.
Schools, libraries, and health care providers were pivotal in making this rapid expansion possible. These anchor institutions already had close ties to their communities, recognized the enormous benefits high-speed Internet affords, and possessed skilled staff to organize classes and broker learning resources.
“Without broadband, they can't get jobs, and it's as simple as that.” – Georgetown Job Center Coordinator (Delaware Department of Libraries BTOP PCC Project)
In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $200 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers (PCCs) throughout the United States. More than 2,000 of those centers are operated by public libraries, from Maine to Arizona. These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments that have allowed BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 1,300 libraries nationally with ultra-fast broadband, providing a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative.
Today we are releasing the first three of 15 PCC and broadband adoption case studies. These focus on the impact of grants in Delaware, Texas and Michigan. The release coincides with an important hearing on libraries and broadband, sponsored by the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services, or IMLS. The case studies were conducted for NTIA by an independent research firm, ASR Analytics, which analyzed the impact these PCCs are having in their local communities.