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Official FCC Blog

January, 2010

Consumer View: Coming to the FCC

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
January 18, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=70]]I’m writing this post at the end of my first month at the FCC, and a week after coming back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – one of the largest annual conventions in the country, and a benchmark event for all of us who care about consumer technology and communications. Before I share some insights from CES, I’d like to let you know a few things about my background and how I’ve come to be at the FCC.

I’ve been involved in consumer issues throughout my career – as a journalist, book author, magazine editor, Web strategist, and advocate.  What brought me to the FCC, as head of our Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, was my 15 years at Consumer Reports. I began there as Science Editor, was Editorial Director and Editor of Consumer Reports magazine for three years, and then served as Executive Vice President of the parent organization, Consumers Union, for almost a decade. During my time as Executive VP, I oversaw editorial, publishing, product testing, and other areas, and directed the launch and expansion of our website at www.ConsumerReports.org. That website is believed to be the largest paid-content information-based site in the world, with more than three million subscribers.

My years at Consumer Reports taught me that consumers have a more personal relationship with communications products and services than they do with almost anything else they buy. At Consumer Reports, our readers couldn’t get enough information about smartphones, internet service providers, online services, digital TV, and the rest of the communications ecosystem. It’s not surprising. Communications technology is central to everyone’s life. We use it every day to connect with our families, shop, find entertainment, do business, and learn about social issues that are central to our democracy.

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Highlighting the staff of the FCC...

by Ruth Milkman, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
January 18, 2010

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There are any number of talented, dedicated staff at the FCC and Mae is one of them. Mae Hall is a member of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) and has been at the Commission since June 21, 1971. She started working at the Commission the Monday after she graduated high school and has loved every minute of it. She spent her first 25 years in the Media Bureau. She started as a secretary in the Hearing Division, then moved on to become a Communications Analyst in the Television Branch, and later worked as a Telecommunication Analyst in the Low Power Television Branch. In 1996, she became a part of WTB as a paralegal in the Auctions and Industry Analysis Division; currently she is a Management / Program Analyst in what is now the Auctions and Spectrum Access Division, working primarily with default payment issues and performing paralegal duties for the Auctions Legal and Policy team.

Over the years, Mae has volunteered for many activities. She has consistently worked with the Combined Federal Campaign and was one of many who volunteered for the DTV Transition outreach effort. For DTV she worked primarily in the Southwest Region conducting outreach activities for consumers and assisting local broadcasters with outreach efforts to ensure all were DTV ready. She worked in both urban as well as rural areas of Texas. Her most memorable day was the day she spent at a Senior Citizens Center in Amarillo, TX. She initially showed up to drop off coupon applications but instead stayed the entire day assisting seniors with converter box hookups and demonstrations and spending time with them. Mae left only after every question had been answered and she'd heard every "life story." She found it very rewarding and fulfilling.

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Helping Haiti: Update

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
January 16, 2010

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Since my blogpost yesterday, we’ve been moving fast at the FCC.  We’re taking licensing steps and other actions that should be helpful in getting communications services to Haiti. Here’s what we’re doing:

Today, the FCC issued a press release in which Chairman Genachowski said, “Haiti’s need for communications services is extraordinary and urgent, and the FCC is strongly committed to doing our part.”The press release identified FCC actions and provided agency contact information for the public;

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Helping Haiti

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
January 14, 2010

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On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, an earthquake struck off the coast of Haiti, causing major damage and loss of life in Haiti, a country of 9 million people. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) called it the strongest earthquake in this area since 1770. The epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit 10 miles west of the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince and its 2 million inhabitants. Other parts of Haiti apparently have not suffered the extent of damage that Port-au-Prince has, where loss of human life and infrastructure devastation is expected to be very high.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is undertaking a variety of efforts, in conjunction with our Federal partners and international agencies, to aid Haiti in its recovery. We are doing so now and our commitment is for the longer-term. Chairman Julius Genachowski and the entire agency convey our sympathies and ongoing concerns to the people of Haiti for the loss of life and destruction in the country. In a statement the day after the earthquake, Chairman Genachowski offered that “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti during this terrible tragedy.” The FCC also is taking specific actions to help, including:

  • Issuing a press release by the FCC Media Bureau on procedures for noncommercial educational stations to follow in order to waive the Commission’s rules for fundraising appeals to support relief efforts;

  • Reaching out to the U.S. Agency for International Development on Haitian relief and restoration efforts as it relates to telecommunications;

     

  • Contacting regulatory counterparts in Haiti expressing FCC’s condolences and concern and offering immediate and longer-term assistance;

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The FCC.

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
January 13, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=100,width=66]]I am combing through my mental archives, thinking back to Spring of last year when I was first considering working for the Federal Government and am trying to remember what my preconceived notions of federal employment entailed. Coming from a world of high-tech, private industry, it was easy to make a hasty generalization and leap to the conclusion that federal government will be a lot different - not bad or worse - just different.

Yet, after being at the FCC for six months, I can give you the insider’s perspective that almost every day I am surprised and delighted by the quality of the workforce at the FCC.  We have amazing lawyers, engineers, economists and many others who have consistently promoted telecom policy for this country – helping not only keep the best interest of the US consumer in mind, but also helping to shape an industry that has grown to 1/5th of the US economy.  So you can learn more from an “insider perspective,” we’re launching a new continuing feature on Reboot.FCC.gov highlighting some of the great employees of the FCC.  I hope you enjoying getting to know a little more about them and a little more about what your FCC is doing for you.

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Upcoming events at FCC.gov/live

by Gray Brooks, FCC New Media
January 11, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:185:height=80,width=70]]This week and next marks the inaugural live video streams for Reboot.FCC.gov.  No matter where in the world you are, you’ll be able to tune in and watch as it happens: a Media Ownership Workshop on Financial and Markeplace Issues (tomorrow, 9:00 A.M. ET - Agenda); an Open Internet Workshop on Innovation, Investment, and the Open Internet (this Wednesday, 4:30 P.M. ET – Agenda); a further Open Internet Workshop on Consumers, Transparency, and the Open Internet (January 19, 1:00 P.M. ET); and the next Open Commission Meeting (January 20, 10:00 A.M. ET).  . 

Each event will be streamed live at FCC.gov/live and moving forward, you can keep an eye on the FCC Calendar to better track further events that are scheduled.  Tune in and join the discussion. 

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The FCC at CES

January 11, 2010

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For the last week, the FCC has manned an exhibit booth here at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and while we’re not among the electronics giants, we got lots of traffic. It’s been great - our days were filled with constant streams of attendees.  Lots of questions. Lots of comments.

So what questions and comments was the FCC getting?  Lots of Ham operators stopping by to say hi and talk about the old days getting their licenses. Consumers telling us we’re not doing enough on indecency and obscenity and consumers telling us we’re doing too much. A surprisingly large percentage of people telling us they’re glad to have us here, and a handful that ask “What are you guys doing here”.

At our booth, we told visitors about our efforts to create a broadband plan.  We showed them the FCC’s new Reboot site. We explained that we’re the FCC, not FTC. We directed them to the restrooms.

The CES show itself is a sensory overload. Biggest television monitors, smallest devices with amazing capabilities.  A very big show with lots of attendees and acres of exhibits.

Our experience here was not limited to the exhibit booth. A Saturday panel featuring Commissioners McDowell, Clyburn, and Baker included a Q&A session on FCC activities and on Friday, I went to hear the standing-room only session with FCC Chairman Genachowski. It was great to hear our Chairman talk about his desire to bring the FCC into the 21st century.  Judging by the changes we’ve seen so far, I think this goal is well underway.

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Redesigning the FCC Website

by David Kitzmiller, Internet Working Group Chairman
January 7, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:161:height=100,width=70]]The FCC website was launched in June 1995 and redesigned in June 1999. The most recent redesign, initiated in March 2000 and completed in September 2001, achieved a common look-and-feel across all static pages of the site by introducing a standard agency-wide template supported internally by a style guide, design standards, posting policies and other web resources.

Incremental Improvements and Expansion
Although there have not been subsequent redesigns, there have been additions and improvements to the site content and associated systems (if not the design) continuously over the years. Some of those improvements include the introduction of a Google-based search tool, new web servers, interactive complaint forms, items-on-circulation reporting, and greatly improved functionality for EDOCS, ECFS, DIRS, eSupport and many other systems.

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