The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was established within the Department of Commerce on March 26, 1978, as a result of Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1977, as implemented by Executive Order 12046. The reorganization combined the functions and resources of two offices: the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP) from the Executive Office of the President and the Office of Telecommunications (OT) within the Department of Commerce.
The NTIA is designated by statute as the "President's principal adviser on telecommunications policies pertaining to the Nation's economic and technological advancement . . . ." It serves as the President's principal adviser on domestic and international communications and information policies pertaining to the nation's economic and technological advancement and to regulation of the telecommunications industry. Its mandate is to provide greater access for all Americans to telecommunications services, support U.S. efforts to open foreign markets, advise on international telecommunications negotiations, and fund research for new technologies and their applications. NTIA also manages the distribution of funds for several key grant programs. Its role in managing radio frequency spectrum allocated for federal use includes addressing policies for sharing, and monitoring and resolving questions regarding usage, including causes of interference. It is responsible for identifying federal spectrum that can be transferred to commercial use through the auction of spectrum licenses, conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. Many of the NTIA's responsibilities are shared with other agencies.
NTIA develops and presents U.S. plans and policies at international communications conferences and related meetings, coordinates U.S. government position on communication with federal agencies, and prescribes policies that ensure effective and efficient federal use of the electromagnetic spectrum. NTIA's program activities are designed to assist the Administration, the Congress, and regulatory agencies in addressing diverse technical and policy questions.
With the passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Congress gave the NTIA new responsibilities in spectrum management and the support of public safety initiatives.
Before reorganization, the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP) was the principal federal agency involved in issues relating to the impact of increased telecommunications and computerization on personal privacy. The Office of Telecommunications's primary function was to provide OTP with scientific and engineering support for managing radio frequencies used by federal agencies. The formation of NTIA essentially merged the policy and technical support functions of the two offices.
The NTIA contains an Office of Federal Patent Licensing. This office encourages federal agencies to evaluate their technical reports and identify those projects with commercial applications. Consequently, a variety of products and services has been developed by NTIS to improve industrial access to practical government technology.
- Oversees the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority contract, and negotiated the Affirmation of Commitments signed between the U.S. government and ICANN in September 2009. NTIA also represents the U.S. government on ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee.
- Participates in ITU-T study group efforts (cybersecurity standards, promotion of neutral policy-related outputs as appropriate) as a substantive expert member of U.S. delegations.
- Participates in ITU-D study group efforts (national best-practices guidelines, tools to promote a culture of cybersecurity, and cybersecurity self-assessment tools) as an expert member of U.S. delegations.
- Participates in ITU-R study group efforts (spectrum management) as an expert member of U.S. delegations.
- Has participated in technical, policy, and regulatory capacity-building efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean through efforts in OAS-CITEL as an expert member of U.S. delegations.
- Participates in technical, policy, and regulatory capacity-building efforts in Latin America through efforts in OAS-CICTE as an expert member of its workshops and through efforts supporting its work in global cyber incident response team development.
- Participates in policy and regulatory training sessions through specialized United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) training activities.
- Participates in APEC-TEL regarding issues such as cybersecurity and child online safety.
- Oversees the implementation of Domain Name System Security Extensions at the authoritative root zone, as well as its implementation within the .us and .edu top-level domains.
- Joined OECD WPISP’s Volunteer Group on Cybersecurity Strategies which was created in March 2010 to monitor potential overlaps with other intergovernmental cybersecurity forums.
- Participates in IETF meetings to track DNS and Internet Protocol-related activities.
- Participates in IGF meetings.
- Has participated in technical infrastructure capacity-building efforts (such as for Central Asia and Eastern Africa).
- Participates in the International Sub-IPC.
- Promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. It carries out these responsibilities, in part, with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
NTIA’s authority in spectrum management policy is broad. The NTIA Organization Act provides NTIA with the authority to assign frequencies and approve the spectrum uses proposed for new federal government systems. Federal users must obtain frequency assignments before they can operate transmitters.
Pursuant to delegations from the President and the Secretary of Commerce, the Administrator of NTIA is the ultimate authority in all spectrum management decisions for the federal government, except frequency assignment decisions, which can be appealed to the OMB Director. The Administrator, in turn, has delegated the responsibility for day-to-day spectrum management decisions and for developing proposals for spectrum management policies to the Associate Administrator for NTIA's Office of Spectrum Management (OSM).
Some of the spectrum management work of OSM and NTIA involves classified radio-communication systems used by the DOD, DOE, DOJ, DHS, and others to support public safety and national defense missions. These systems, although they are a relatively small proportion of the total number of federal government systems (about 1% of all federal frequency assignments and 20% of all new radio-communication systems reviewed by NTIA are classified) are of overwhelming importance to the safety and security of the United States. Because these systems are classified, NTIA may not be able to share pertinent spectrum management data with other users of the spectrum. However, OSM very carefully considers both the impact of new technologies and systems on the existing classified systems that must be protected and the economic needs of the industry and the people of the United States.
OSM formulates and establishes plans and policies that ensure the effective, efficient, and equitable use of the spectrum. To achieve this broad objective, OSM develops long-range spectrum plans to meet future federal government spectrum requirements; develops plans for managing radio communications during emergencies; coordinates and registers federal government satellite networks internationally; satisfies the frequency assignment needs of the federal agencies; provides spectrum certification for new federal agency radio-communication systems; performs the necessary engineering analysis for evaluating and planning spectrum use; and provides the necessary automated information technology capability to perform these activities.