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Sept 14 -- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asks OMB for approval to conduct the Internet Use Survey in November 2021 as a supplement to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS). NTIA has sponsored fifteen such surveys since 1994, the last in November 2019.  NTIA invites economists to comment to OMB on the survey's value and design by October 16, 2020.    
 
To aid the Administration’s efforts to ensure the digital preparedness of the nation’s current and future workforce, NTIA data will reveal consumers’ changing demand for broadband, as well as their online activities. The information may inform decisions about the scope and scale of the needed infrastructure, particularly in sparsely populated, remote areas where broadband deployment may be difficult and costly. It may also shed light on opportunities to increase digital literacy and use among Americans who currently use the Internet sparingly, if at all. NTIA works with Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and other stakeholders to develop and advance economic and regulatory policies that foster broadband deployment and adoption. Current, systematic, and comprehensive data on broadband use and non-use by U.S. households are critical to allow policymakers not only to gauge progress made to date, but also to identify problem areas with a specificity that permits carefully targeted and cost effective responses.

The U.S. government’s critical need for comprehensive broadband data continues to increase as high-speed Internet access and the skills to use the technology are becoming essential to Americans’ daily lives and to the nation’s economy. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), NTIA, and the FCC have all issued reports noting the importance of useful broadband adoption data for policymakers. Congress sought to address the paucity of such information in the Broadband Data Improvement Act in 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009; recent congressional action has highlighted the need for more accurate broadband data.  Modifying the CPS to include NTIA’s requested information collection will enable the Commerce Department and NTIA to advance the Administration’s infrastructure initiative, as well as to respond to congressional concerns and directives.  

Adding NTIA’s proposed 66 questions to the Bureau’s CPS will generate official geographic and demographic statistics on broadband and Internet usage in the U.S. that are unavailable with such attributes from any other source. To NTIA’s knowledge, there are no other current data sources that provide the depth and reliability of information on broadband adoption and usage that is available from the NTIA Internet Use Survey. The three computer and Internet use questions added to the American Community Survey beginning in 2013, while vital to learning about broadband adoption among smaller geographic and demographic groups, provide only basic information about adoption at the household level.  In contrast, the NTIA-sponsored series of CPS supplements provides a granular look at how Americans use the Internet, including new applications and devices.  
  
A 2021 edition of the survey would enable NTIA to compare the state of Internet use shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic—in November 2019—with new data after the crisis has passed.   

NTIA will make the newly collected data available on its interactive Data Explorer visualization tool, which is available at https://www.ntia.gov/data/digital-nation-data-explorer.  The tool allows policymakers, researchers, and the public to chart Internet usage over time, in granular detail. Additionally, NTIA regularly uses these datasets for internal policy analysis purposes, and has referenced these data in filings with the FCC and in other agency documents. NTIA also utilizes the datasets to update global broadband metrics maintained by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  A public use dataset that protects respondent confidentiality will be created by the Census Bureau and made available by both agencies for use by researchers and other members of the public.
 
2021 NTIA Internet Use Survey submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202006-0660-001   Click on IC List for survey instrument, View Supporting Statement for narrative on purposes, uses, methods, and plans.
FR notice: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/14/2020-20204/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for
 
Point of contact: Rafi Goldberg, Telecommunications Policy Analyst, NTIA  rgoldberg@ntia.gov   (202) 482-4375
 
For AEA members wishing to provide comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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