FAQ

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.

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 Broadband Interagency Working Group (BIWG). Through the BIWG, NTIA works with other federal agencies to improve coordination across programs, reduce regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, promote awareness of the importance of federal support for broadband investment and digital inclusion programs, and collect and share information with communities about available federal resources for broadband deployment and digital inclusion efforts.

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 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 information, 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 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. For 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. For more information, see What Speed Do You Need?

How many households are using broadband?

According to 2015 data from NTIA’s Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, 75 percent of Americans are using the Internet from any location, up from 71 percent in 2013. This survey samples 53,000 households.

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.

What does Digital Inclusion mean?

NTIA defines Digital Inclusion as meaning that individuals and communities have 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 is BroadbandUSA trying to improve Digital Inclusion?

BroadbandUSA promotes 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 community and thought leaders to identify best practices and activities that advance digital engagement and opportunity

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:

What is the Federal Broadband Interagency Working Group?

NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Program Co-Chairs the Broadband Interagency Working Group (BIWG), along with USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Through the BIWG, BroadbandUSA works with colleagues from more than 25 federal agencies to improve coordination across programs, reduce regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, promote awareness of the importance of federal support for broadband investment and digital inclusion programs, and collect and share information with communities about federal resources available to them for broadband deployment and digital inclusion efforts. The BIWG complements BroadbandUSA’s work to expand broadband infrastructure and use across the country.

Can BroadbandUSA connect me to other federal agencies?

NTIA has extensive experience working with other federal agencies and existing partnerships with many of the federal agencies that support broadband access and adoption efforts. 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 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.

  • Guides and Tools: Resources that incorporate field-tested best practices from BroadbandUSA’s work.

  • 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.

  • Collateral: Infographics and handouts that illustrate the importance of broadband and share information about BroadbandUSA services.

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 have any dedicated funding for broadband programs?

BroadbandUSA does not currently fund broadband projects. Instead, BroadbandUSA provides guidance, tools, insight and thought leadership that guide 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. Local and state governments can also review BroadbandUSA’s Broadband Funding Guide, which provides a roadmap on how to access federal funding to support broadband planning, public access, digital inclusion and deployment projects. You may also use the Funding tab on our website to search for funding programs at other federal agencies.

Does BroadbandUSA have upcoming events in 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. To learn more about upcoming workshops, please visit the Events section.

If you would like to request that a BroadbandUSA staff member attend a local event, please contact us at BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov.

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.

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.

What is the technical assistance process?

After a community or partner contacts BroadbandUSA, our staff will send an Intake Form requesting information about any broadband challenges or goals. Next, the team’s broadband development officers will review the Intake Form, perform initial research and schedule an introductory call or meeting. Finally, the team tailors its approach based on the unique challenges of the community or organization. BroadbandUSA can serve as a sounding board or provide an in-depth evaluation of a broadband plan.

Is the technical assistance ongoing or one-time support?

Our experience has taught us that each community is unique. Our expert staff will work with each customer individually to determine the best level and type of support, depending on the focus and requirements of the project.

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.

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.