Frequently Asked Questions

What is BroadbandUSA?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) BroadbandUSA program promotes innovation and economic growth by supporting efforts to expand broadband connectivity and meaningful use across America. BroadbandUSA serves local and state governments, industry, and nonprofits that need to enhance broadband connectivity and promote digital inclusion. To date, BroadbandUSA has provided support to more than 1,000 communities to help them fully participate in the digital economy. See About BroadbandUSA.

What is NTIA?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. See About NTIA.

How does NTIA work with other federal agencies?

NTIA serves as the principal Executive branch advisor to the President on telecommunications issues. As part of this mission, the agency co-chairs the American Broadband Initiative (ABI) alongside the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Through the ABI, NTIA works with other federal agencies to streamline federal permitting processes and leverage federal assets to ease the buildout of broadband infrastructure, as well as coordinate federal funding for broadband in the interest of better targeting areas of need. NTIA also coordinates work across federal agencies to promote awareness of the importance of federal support for broadband investment and digital inclusion programs, and collect of share information with communities about available federal resources for these efforts. For the most recent ABI update, see American Broadband Initiative Progress Report for June 2020.

What services does BroadbandUSA offer?

  • Technical Assistance: Direct, hands-on assistance to local and state governments, industry and non-profits planning and implementing broadband initiatives. Examples include providing assistance in evaluating business models, reviewing broadband policies and sharing procurement best practices.

  • Support for state and local governments: Facilitation for the State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN) and the Digital Inclusion Leaders Network (DILN). These networks are cohorts of state and local government officials that focus on state level broadband efforts and local and state level digital inclusion efforts.

  • National Broadband Availability Map: NTIA received funding from Congress in 2018 to update the National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM) in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Congress directed NTIA to acquire and utilize data from available third party datasets. NTIA built upon existing partnerships to identify data from federal, state, local and tribal governments, owners and operators of broadband networks, educational institutions, nonprofits, and cooperatives to create the map.

  • Guides and Tools: Resources that incorporate field-tested best practices from BroadbandUSA’s work.Infographics and handouts that illustrate the importance of broadband and share information about BroadbandUSA services.

  • Events and Workshops: Events that bring together state, local and federal officials, community leaders, industry executives, nonprofits and other key broadband stakeholders to share real-world broadband success stories and lessons learned. BroadbandUSA tailors speakers and topics to local needs, and gains a better understanding of the challenges local projects are facing.

  • Webinars: Virtual learning events to share information about practical broadband issues and new initiatives, as well as provide group technical assistance and connect stakeholders between events.

Does BroadbandUSA have any dedicated funding for broadband programs?

BroadbandUSA does not have any direct funding for broadband projects. BroadbandUSA does provide guidance, tools, insight and thought leadership that guide stakeholders and communities to work with providers to get the connectivity they need. In addition, our expert staff can help connect local and state governments to other federal funding opportunities. BroadbandUSA’s updated “one-stop” funding site is updated annually and provides information on how to access federal funding to support broadband planning, public access, digital inclusion and deployment projects.

Can BroadbandUSA connect me to state governments and other federal agencies?

Through the State Broadband Leadership Network, BroadbandUSA can connect you with state officials working to further broadband access in their state. NTIA co-chairs the American Broadband Initiative that works with more than 25 federal agencies on strategies for increasing efficiency in government broadband programs. In addition, as part of our technical assistance work, our staff can consult with your community to determine if another federal agency may be able to provide support.

What is the Minority Broadband Initiative?

The NTIA Minority Broadband Initiative is part of NTIA’s initiative to increase minority stakeholder engagement around solving broadband access challenges in vulnerable communities. In 2019 NTIA launched the MBI to ensure all Americans can participate in the digital economy. NTIA is working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), in recognition of their role as anchor institutions in many communities, and their potential to become “hubs” for broadband deployment, use, and application.

How is BroadbandUSA trying to improve Digital Inclusion?

  • By guiding communities through broadband planning and digital literacy efforts via free technical assistance, tools and products.

  • Working with government entities to remove barriers to broadband efforts and promote a broadband-friendly environment.

  • Promoting industry engagement and awareness regarding broadband’s importance.

  • Convening the Digital Inclusion Leaders Network (DILN) to identify best practices and activities that advance digital engagement and opportunity at the state and local level.

  • See “Technical Assistance Overview: Digital Inclusion,” and “Connectivity with a Purpose: Considerations for Planning Digital Inclusion Efforts.”

Does BroadbandUSA have upcoming events in my area?

BroadbandUSA hosts monthly webinars on topics of interest to a variety of stakeholders. To find out more about the monthly webinar, click here. If you would like to request a webinar on a specific topic, please send us an email at BroadbandUSA@ntia.gov. BroadbandUSA also hosts and co-hosts in-person and virtual regional workshops throughout the year to bring together state, local and federal officials, regional and rural Internet service providers, community leaders, industry representatives, nonprofits, and other key broadband experts and stakeholders to share real-world broadband success stories and lessons learned. To learn more about upcoming virtual or in person events and workshops, please visit the Events section.

Will a BroadbandUSA staff member speak at my event?

BroadbandUSA staff attends events across the country to speak about the importance of broadband and share best practices and lessons learned.To request an NTIA speaker, please contactBroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov.

How can I work with BroadbandUSA to host a workshop on my area?

BroadbandUSA hosts and co-hosts regional workshops throughout the year to bring together state, local and federal officials, regional and rural Internet service providers, community leaders, industry representatives, nonprofits, and other key broadband experts and stakeholders to share real-world broadband success stories and lessons learned. For current events, please visit our Events page. If you would like to work with BroadbandUSA to host an event in your area, contact us at BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov or call us at (202) 482-2048.

What is the technical assistance process?

After a community or partner contacts BroadbandUSA, you will be sent an Intake Form seeking additional information about your broadband request. Your Form will be reviewed and BroadbandUSA will perform initial research and schedule an introductory call or meeting. BroadbandUSA will tailor ts approach based on the unique challenges of the community or organization.

Is the technical assistance ongoing or one-time support?

Our experience has taught us that each community is unique. The BroadbandUSA technical assistance team will work with each customer individually to determine the best level and type of support required.

How does one apply for technical assistance?

Please email us at BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov to request assistance, or visit the section on How We can Help.

Why does broadband matter?

In the 21st century, broadband is basic infrastructure just as vital as roads and bridges, electrical lines and sewer systems. At the community level, an advanced telecommunications network is critical for driving growth, attracting new businesses, creating jobs, enabling access to emergency services, and remaining competitive in the information-age economy. At the individual level, access to broadband – and the know-how to use it – opens the door to employment opportunities, educational resources, health care delivery, government services and social networks. In many cases, broadband is necessary for applying for a job or even completing a homework assignment. For more information, see infographic Why Does Broadband Matter? (PDF)

How fast is broadband?

Broadband speeds will vary depending upon the Internet service provider and the broadband package that a user selects. Speed of connection is normally measured in megabits per second (Mbps); slower connections are measured using kilobits (1/1,000th of a megabit) per second (Kbps).

The term “broadband” commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies, such as fiber, wireless, satellite, digital subscriber line and cable. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband capability requires consumers to have access to actual download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. See the BroadbandUSA Glossary.

Why do network speeds and capacity matter?

When a user connects to the Internet, the download speed is the rate at which data (websites, videos, music, etc.) is transferred from another source to the device. Upload speed is the rate at which data (photos, videos) is uploaded to the Internet. If a user is going to download or upload numerous large files (e.g., streaming videos, a digital photo album) with low network speed, it could take hours for the content to transfer. Network speeds also have the potential to impact speed of delivery for emergency services or telemedicine. For more information, see What Speed Do You Need?

What does Digital Inclusion mean?

NTIA defines Digital Inclusion as individual- and community-level access to robust broadband connections; Internet-enabled devices that meet their needs; and the skills to explore, create and collaborate in the digital world. BroadbandUSA evaluates digital inclusion through access, digital literacy, meaningful use, and institutionalization.

  • Access considers the availability of high-speed, reliable Internet and related equipment, including having Internet connections and technology at home or in community institutions (e.g., free public Wi-Fi, public computer centers).

  • Digital Literacy measures an individual’s ability to use the Internet and modern technologies, such as computers and smart phones.

  • Meaningful Use refers to how an individual uses their digital literacy skills to enhance educational and employment opportunities.

  • Institutionalization assesses a community’s efforts to incorporate digital skills and opportunity in its workforce development, economic development, or community planning strategies.

How many households are using broadband?

According to 2019 data from NTIA’s Internet Use Survey, 79 percent of Americans are using the Internet from any location, up from 71 percent in 2013. This survey samples approximately 50,000 households across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, see: “NTIA Data Reveal Shifts in Technology Use, Persistent Digital Divide

Why are so many Americans still not online?

People cite many reasons why they do not use broadband. However, the five most common broadband adoption barriers are: cost, access, skills, relevance and perception. (See BroadbandUSA’s Removing Roadblocks to Broadband Adoption.) Many demographic groups have historically lagged in using the Internet. These include senior citizens, minorities and Americans with lower levels of educational attainment. For more information, see the blog “Digitally Unconnected in the U.S.: Who’s Not Online and Why?”

How is broadband changing education?

Broadband allows students to take online courses and access cutting-edge research at schools and universities throughout the world. With broadband, Advanced Placement classes and foreign language programs can become available to small rural schools with limited resources. It helps teachers customize lessons for students at different learning levels by leveraging different types of online curriculum materials and virtual teaching aids to supplement lesson plans and homework assignments. And it serves as a platform to teach students the digital literacy skills that are so critical to success in today’s economy. For more information, see The Digital Generation’s Classroom.

How can broadband improve health care and enable telemedicine?

Access to broadband is transforming health care. Telemedicine expands access to health care services, particularly for people living in rural areas with few medical facilities and not enough specialists and doctors. Patients can consult with medical personnel located miles away using video conferencing technology, and doctors can monitor patients using remote diagnostic equipment. Telemedicine also permits physicians to transmit X-rays, CT scans, medical records and other large files to hospitals across the country with the simple click of a mouse.

How can I help people in my community learn to use the Internet?

NTIA has published a Broadband Adoption Toolkit to share best practices and tips to help communities implement adoption programs. The Toolkit contains practical ideas and tips for encouraging a variety of people to get online – from senior citizens who may have never before touched a mouse to English Language Learner populations.

You can also reach out to our technical assistance team at BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov to request assistance identifying your community’s barriers to adoption and creating a program that will help more residents get online.

What funding sources are available?

BroadbandUSA’s Technical Assistance staff can provide recommendations for public and private financial resources, as well as opportunities to develop public private partnerships, that would meet your broadband needs. In addition, BroadbandUSA published two resources to address funding questions:

Do you have examples of BroadbandUSA’s work?

  • A broadband advisor to the mayor of Baltimore met with BroadbandUSA and requested guidance on how the city should invest funds to support projects that would increase local broadband infrastructure and access to technology, including fiber in manufacturing districts and additional hotspots.

  • BroadbandUSA worked with Los Angeles to maximize the effectiveness of a request for proposal, focusing on specific details that would help the city identify the right private sector partner to deploy a city-wide broadband system that could provide fiber to homes and businesses and launch a free public Wi-Fi service.

  • BroadbandUSA helped local officials develop a strategic broadband plan for Grand Junction, Colorado.

  • In New York City, BroadbandUSA helped local officials develop and deploy a broadband adoption plan to help residents of a public housing community build digital literacy skills

Does BroadbandUSA offer webinars?

BroadbandUSA offers a variety of webinars to share best practices and offer technical assistance. To learn more about upcoming topics that might interest you and your community, please visit the Events section.

If you would like to request a webinar on a specific topic, please send us an email at BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov.