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August 13 -- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Department of Commerce, invites public comments to OMB by September 15, 2021 regarding the proposal to conduct the Internet Use Survey as a supplement to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS) in November 2021. The subject information collection was fielded in its current form in November 2017 and November 2019, and previous iterations of the survey have been commissioned by NTIA and administered by Census periodically since 1994.
 
President Biden has made it an Administration priority to achieve ubiquitous broadband adoption and close the digital divide. He recently noted that “the bipartisan infrastructure agreement we just reached is going to deliver reliable high-speed Internet to every American.  Every single American…. High-speed Internet is essential like electric and clean air — like electricity and clean water.”  Further, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has observed that “high-quality, affordable broadband isn’t a luxury, but it’s a necessity for education, jobs, and healthcare.”   
 
The NTIA Internet Use Survey will aid the Administration’s efforts to achieve digital equity, helping to inform decisions about policies and funding related to broadband deployment, affordability, adoption, and digital literacy. The research and policy analysis enabled by this data collection are particularly important as the nation recovers from a pandemic that has further highlighted the importance of the Internet in daily life. 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, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, the Broadband DATA Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Modifying the CPS to include NTIA’s requested information collection will enable the Commerce Department and NTIA to advance the Administration’s digital equity programs and goals, as well as to respond to congressional concerns and directives.   

Since 1994, NTIA has sponsored 15 supplements to the CPS on the Internet and the shifting technologies Americans use for online access. NTIA proposes to add 66 questions to the November 2021 edition of the Census Bureau’s CPS to gather reliable data on broadband and computer use by U.S. households. NTIA is proposing to include additions, deletions, and revisions to certain questions in the information collection relative to the currently-approved version. NTIA underwent an extensive questionnaire development process in order to maximize the value of the resulting data to policymakers, researchers, and the general public, while preserving the ability to make time-series comparisons where appropriate. In August 2020, NTIA published a Request for Comments soliciting broad recommendations for improving the NTIA Internet Use Survey questions.  Based in large part on the feedback received,  as well as discussion among NTIA staff in consultation with Census Bureau experts, NTIA submitted a draft survey instrument to the Census Bureau for cognitive testing, which was completed in spring of 2021. Across two rounds of testing, NTIA implemented a number of recommendations for further improvements to the survey questions. The result of this process is NTIA’s proposed revision to the information collection.
 
During the months that follow data collection, the Bureau will produce summary tables and a public use microdata file for NTIA, the latter of which will ultimately be posted online for public use. To provide analysis on U.S. households’ broadband and computer use more quickly than NTIA’s past in-depth reports have allowed, we will use the collected data to produce and publish several shorter reports or blogs for posting to the agency’s website, along with charts and summary data tables. NTIA intends to issue these analyses over a period of several months, and will likely use complex statistical techniques such as regression modeling to produce them. Blogs reporting results of previous surveys are available on the agency’s website at https://www.ntia.gov/data/blogs. NTIA also makes available thousands of summary statistics through its Digital Nation Data Explorer visualization tool, at https://www.ntia.gov/data/digital-nation-data-explorer, and will update that tool with results from this data collection when it begins posting analyses.
 
NTIA Data Central: https://www.ntia.doc.gov/category/data-central
Census CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement webpage: https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/time-series/demo/cps/cps-supp_cps-repwgt/cps-computer.html
2021 Internet Use Survey proposal to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202108-0660-001 Click on IC List for survey instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation
FR notice inviting public comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/08/13/2021-17379/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for
 
For further information, contact: Rafi Goldberg, Telecommunications Policy Analyst, NTIA rgoldberg@ntia.gov
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, "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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