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Official FCC Blog

September, 2010

Do Corporations Have 'Personal Privacy' Rights?

by Michael Krasnow
September 30, 2010

On Tuesday, September 28th, the Supreme Court granted the request of the FCC and the Justice Department to hear the case of Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc., No. 09-1279.  The case involves the Freedom of Information Act (commonly known as the "FOIA"), the federal law that permits the public to request and obtain copies of records from the United States Government.  In general, the law requires that federal agencies release the requested records unless they are covered by one or more of the FOIA's statutory exemptions.

The AT&T case involves FOIA Exemption 7(C).  That provision exempts from mandatory public disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, when disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of "personal privacy."  The question presented is whether Exemption 7(C)'s protection for "personal privacy" protects corporations like AT&T in addition to individuals (who clearly are covered).  A federal appeals court in Philadelphia held that corporations can have protected “personal privacy” interests under Exemption 7(C).  The Supreme Court agreed to take the case to review that decision.

Briefs in the case will be due the end of the year, oral argument likely will be heard early in 2011, and the Supreme Court should issue its decision by June 2011.  For more background on this case, please see our post dated June 22, 2010, as well as the official webpage of the FCC’s Office of General Counsel.

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Next Steps on Nonvisual Cell Phone Access

by Jamal Mazrui
September 24, 2010

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Let me encourage anyone interested to submit comments to the Commission regarding accessibility of cell and other phone technologies to people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision, in furtherance of Section 255 of the Communications Act. Such comments are due by the end of Thursday, September 30, 2010. Initial comments have already been filed, and currently, a reply comment period is underway.

The public notice is entitled "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-blind, or Have Low Vision." It may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document from the following web address:

http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-10-1324A1.doc

Comments may be filed using the web form of the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), located at:

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/

A web form on that page allows one to upload a word processor document, e.g., in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be typed or pasted into a simpler web form called ECFS Express, located at:

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/hotdocket/list

At the prompt for the docket, input:

CG Docket No. 10-145

Comments may be of any length and address any relevant issue. They will affect how the Commission handles government responsibilities in this area.

(Cross-posted on Blogband)

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Super Wi-Fi is Super for Energy Too

by Nick Sinai
September 24, 2010

By Nick Sinai and Tom Brown

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We at the FCC are very excited about yesterday’s order to free up the unused "white spaces" spectrum between television channels, intended to spur a wave of innovation in new devices and applications. Most commenters have focused on the possible use of this spectrum in "Super Wi-Fi" networks with wider range and better structural penetration than is available today.

But Super Wi-Fi isn’t just for consumers; it’s super for improving how we transmit and distribute energy in America too. The National Broadband Plan made several recommendations designed to integrate broadband into the emerging Smart Grid and enable improved Smart Grid communications; white spaces spectrum is yet another option for utilities to use for their communications networks. As we have seen in a recent trial in Plumas-Sierra County, California, white spaces spectrum can be used effectively and securely for grid automation applications, as well as retail broadband services. Opening white spaces spectrum is also likely to have a particular impact on utility operations in rural areas, which often have challenging terrain and fewer options for broadband service than urban areas.

The FCC remains committed to doing its part to usher in a new era of utility communications, and we look forward to seeing the innovations in all sorts of "national purpose" areas – health care, education, and yes, energy – that will result from yesterday’s action.

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Enforcement Bureau Settles Case That Restores Nearly $22 Million to TRS Fund

by Michele Ellison
September 22, 2010

As the result of a settlement negotiated by the Enforcement Bureau and released yesterday, Purple Communications, Inc., will pay around $22 million to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund.  TRS is a vital service that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone – through an interpreter – with hearing people.  The settlement follows the FCC’s demand earlier this year that Purple restore millions of dollars to the fund for overbilling it in violation of FCC rules.  The issues under investigation included whether the company unlawfully offered financial incentives to inflate TRS usage and billables, and whether the company recovered not once but twice from the fund for business-related calls to or from Purple employees.  In addition to the payment to the TRS Fund, the settlement also requires Purple to adopt a detailed compliance plan to prevent future misconduct, and to pay $550,000 to the U.S. Treasury.

The action is a victory for consumers all the way around.  The settlement protects carriers and the general public from overpaying into the TRS Fund.  The $22 million paid back will directly offset what the fund will need in the future to pay for TRS service, and therefore what the public will need to pay to support it.  And, most important, the settlement ensures that the fund will be used for its intended purpose – providing affordable relay services for consumers with disabilities who need and want to communicate with hearing people.

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Modernizing FCC.gov from the Ground Up

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
September 22, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=106,width=70]]As IT tides shift in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission has a special opportunity to become an expert technology agency in the federal government.
We have been hard at work in redesigning FCC.gov: defining personas of citizens and business both current and potential, building our data infrastructure (as I mentioned in my O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 Summit talk), combing through first-ever site analytics and user surveys, and talking to people both online and off about how they would reimagine FCC.gov.
Today, I'm happy to announce that this agency will be rebuilding FCC.gov using Drupal. This decision is a significant step towards modernizing our own underlying online infrastructure -- a key stage in redesigning and rebuilding FCC.gov.
We're excited to join a group of pioneering agencies and offices -- like Whitehouse.gov, Commerce.gov, and Ed.gov -- that have helped activate a movement that embraces and promotes inter-agency website efforts, while helping to usher in systemic change. As an open source content management system, Drupal also enjoys a robust and active community of users, code contributors, and evangelists. We look forward to engaging with this community to help us innovate and learn, as we build out our own budding community of citizen developers.
We understand that citizen shareholders deserve a government that moves quickly to deliver information, facilitate transactions, and inform and engage Americans. As we continue to reimagine what FCC.gov can -- and will -- be, we're excited to do so alongside the Drupal community.

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A Case for Next Generation 9-1-1

by Jeffrey Goldthorp
September 22, 2010

Like highways, communications networks can get snarled up when they have too much traffic.  Most people have experienced this in the form of the "Mother's Day effect."  A more serious form of this limitation occurs when an emergency results in a sudden surge of calls to a local 9-1-1 call center, resulting in congestion and call blocking.  Next generation 9-1-1 (NG911) uses IP-based technology to manage 9-1-1 call surges dynamically, minimizing blockage.

For more on NG 911 watch the video below:

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The New Parents' Place

by Rachel Kazan
September 21, 2010

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Today we launched our new Parents' Place webpage filled with resources and information about television, electronic media and online safety. We also link to other sites with great information for parents. For just one example, click on the link to Net Cetera for practical tips for talking to your children about being online.

We have three categories of online resources:

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WISENET coming soon! Participate in the Women in ICT's Shared Experience Network

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
September 21, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=71]]Very soon, the FCC’s International Bureau will launch a new section of FCC.gov called “Women in ICT’s Shared Excellence Network” (WISENET).  The site is an international online community of women in information, communications, and technology.  Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Baker will kick off the discussions.

WISENET will be a space for women in ICT from around the world to share views and professional information, and keep in touch with each others’ work and accomplishments. Through WISENET, not only will we be able to stay informed about each other’s professional lives, but we also will have access to resources and referrals we can all use as we face common challenges.  To encourage sharing, we envision a website which will host information that participants contribute.  This will include professional biographical information, as well as other ICT-related input. 

If you are interested in participating, please send to Irene.Wu@fcc.gov:

  1. Your photo, name, professional title, organization, city, and country, as you wish it to appear on the website.
  2. A short professional bio of less than 100 words.
  3. Links to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social networking sites.

Also, we encourage you to send in:

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Cable Diversity Week highlight of Big Apple Tour

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
September 16, 2010

I just spent 2.5 days in New York City focusing on cable TV as the industry celebrated Diversity Week. I had the pleasure of meeting with the Board of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Cable - NAMIC, a 30-year old organization that promotes diversity in the cable industry by emphasizing diversity as a business strategy with their focus on programming, marketing, operations, technology, and leadership. They also provide training, awards, grants, mentoring, and guidance and networking opportunities.

Early Tuesday morning, I attended NAMIC's breakfast meeting where this year's Most Influential Minorities in Cable were recognized. I also learned about NAMIC's Executive Leadership Development Program from a most successful panel of graduates, and heard from several second generation NAMIC Board members who are carrying on their parents' tradition in the cable industry by working to increase opportunities for minorities and women in the creation, distribution, and marketing of cable programming. I was honored to present the keynote address at the morning session during the 24th Annual Conference entitled 3D: Diversity, Digital, Demographics.

An hour later, I had the opportunity to join an impressive group of women on a panel at the Women in Cable Telecommunications' Conference. Luckily, it was right down the hall from NAMIC. Each of these women is a remarkable leader in her field, and they were all willing to share their personal experiences and tips for success. We shared a wide range of stories from the most heart-breaking to the side-splitting. I think we all learned something about the challenges and rewards of being a woman in industries that had not initially welcomed us as participants, but where we have managed to make inroads to become leaders in our respective fields.

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FCC License View

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
September 14, 2010

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The FCC is proud to announce this Tuesday's Developer Release: FCC License View.

FCC License View is a tool designed to make FCC license management information more transparent and accessible to a broad range of users.

This release follows last Tuesday's launch of a suite of developer tools and APIs, including the FCC License View API.

FCC License View is an initial release of functionality from the FCC's ongoing Consolidated Licensing System (CLS) project. Thanks to efforts stemming from our the new Data Innovation Initiative, our team was able to expedite the release of FCC License View for speedy release to the public.

FCC License View is available now at http://fcc.gov/licenseview.

Last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit here in Washington, D.C., FCC leadership reaffirmed our commitment to providing powerful, innovative tools into our robust community of developers. Today's release marks our ongoing progress towards those goals -- and the first in a regular release schedule of tools and tweaks.

With this new tool, users from across private and public sectors can digest complex licensing info through a simple and easy-to-use dashboard. FCC License View lets users digest snapshots of FCC license management data that are at the core of the agency's mission. At launch, FCC License View lets users explore over 3 million total licenses, 2 million of which are active.

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