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Official FCC Blog

March, 2011

What’s in a name?

by Mary Bucher, Technologies, Systems and Innovation Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
March 30, 2011

I am happy to announce that the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Spectrum Management, Resources and Technologies Division has a new name. (Sorry to disappoint those looking for a discussion of Shakespeare or roses.)  We are now the Technologies, Systems and Innovation Division (aptly known as the Tech Division).  We’ve changed our name to more clearly reflect our core mission and responsibilities.
The Tech Division is primarily responsible for developing and managing the Wireless Bureau’s information technology tools, systems and programs.  This includes managing multiple automated systems, developing innovative web-based tools and providing advanced mapping and data analysis capabilities.
As part of our rebranding, we plan to place even more emphasis on adding additional transparency to Bureau processes and access to underlying data through the Bureau’s online presence using latest web methodologies.
The Tech Division also promotes fast and efficient licensing of wireless services through our licensing support and outreach functions which include the Universal Licensing System (ULS) Technical Support Hotline and attending industry trade shows to promote key functions of the Bureau.
The name "Technologies, Systems & Innovation" more accurately reflects these goals and responsibilities than the former name.  With this change, we will be better positioned to succeed in our mission of developing and managing innovative tools and systems, enabling data driven policy decisions and equipping the public with timely, useful information about wireless services.  Besides, the Tech Division has a nice ring to it!

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Supreme Court Confirms No Personal Privacy for Corporations

by Laurence Schecker
March 30, 2011

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On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously (with Justice Kagan not participating) confirmed the longstanding position of the Commission that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Exemption 7(C) does not protect the personal privacy of corporations. Exemption 7(C) permits agencies to withhold 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.” AT&T had argued that as a corporation it, too, was entitled to “personal privacy.” Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts indicated that Exemption 7(C)’s use of the word personal “suggests a type of privacy evocative of human concerns – not the sort usually associated with an entity like, say, AT&T.” He continued, “AT&T has given us no sound reason in the statutory text or context to disregard the ordinary meaning of the phrase personal privacy” as being limited to the privacy interests of individuals.

The Court’s decision supports the Commission’s commitment to increased transparency and openness in government by giving this FOIA exemption its natural and more limited reading, hence refusing to expand the universe of records that may be withheld from the public.

If you're curious about the case and want to learn more, here's the decision (pdf) as delivered by Chief Justice Roberts.

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Chief FOIA Officer Report Shows Continued Progress

by Laurence Schecker
March 30, 2011

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The FCC’s second annual Chief FOIA Officer Report (Word doc) shows continued progress at the FCC in ensuring public access to Commission records through the Freedom of Information Act and by Internet posting. General Counsel Austin Schlick, the FCC’s Chief FOIA Officer, led a review of the Commission’s FOIA operations. Key points in the report include:

  • The FCC granted in whole or in part 97.9% of the initial FOIA requests it has received in FY 2011, up from 95.3% in FY 2010 and 94.2% in FY 2009.
  • The Commission is expanding the use of redaction software to ensure that records properly withheld under a FOIA exemption are properly redacted and marked with the applicable exemption.
  • The increase in records available on FCC.gov has reduced the need of the public to seek records through the FOIA. The FCC has more than doubled the number of pages of records available on its website since 2008. At the same time, the number of initial FOIA requests received by the FCC declined from 659 in FY 2009 to 598 in FY 2010 and is on pace to decline again in FY 2011.
  • The already small backlog of FOIA requests and applications for review is being further reduced. 
  • Much credit for the smooth handling of the Commission’s FOIA program goes both to members of the Office of Managing Director’s Performance Evaluation and Records Management FOIA staff and to staff throughout the agency that process FOIA requests. They work hard to ensure responses to FOIA requests are timely and complete.

The Chief FOIA Officer welcomes suggestions to help the FCC’s FOIA program continue to operate successfully and to improve.

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More News with the FCC Registration Numbers

by Warren Firschein
March 29, 2011

FCC license holders and others doing business with the Commission are likely to be already familiar with the Commission’s Registration System, also known as “CORES,” which primarily is used by registrants to obtain an identifying number called an FCC Registration Number, or “FRN.” These unique ten-digit number sequences allow registrants to submit or file applications to the Commission, as well as remit payments, and are used by all Commission systems to easily identify individuals and companies when they interact with the agency. They also serve an important role by aiding the Commission’s compliance with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which was enacted by Congress to address concerns that debts owed to the Federal government were not being properly collected.

On December 6, 2010, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing modifications intended to make CORES more feature-friendly and improve the Commission’s ability to comply with various statutes that govern debt collection and the collection of personal information by the federal government. One of the primary goals of this proceeding is to improve the interface with CORES so that you can use the system in a more efficient and effective manner. Some of the proposed modifications to CORES are summarized below, but the full text of the NPRM can be found on the Commission’s web site. Note that comments to the proposals raised in the NPRM must be submitted on or before March 3, 2011, while reply comments must be submitted no later than March 18, 2011.

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New Market Opportunities and FCC Building Blocks

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
March 23, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]The National Broadband Map was developed to embody the spirit of the Internet.
Let me explain what I mean. The Internet is a two way street. At its most basic, the National Broadband Map shows how quickly Americans can give and take information over our national networks.
The Internet is also highly dynamic; it is constantly changing. The Map, too, was built to not only support but encourage change.
Since the product launched, we've seen some cool developments that use the Map's building blocks to make other projects better and more powerful. We think these developments lead to new opportunities -- new markets, new jobs, and new ways of tackling tough issues.
Here’s the first big example: The team at Broadband.com has integrated two of the FCC's APIs -- one for Census Block Conversion, the other to access the crowdsourced data points of the FCC Consumer Broadband Speed Test -- into their own mapping tool. This helps show the speed at businesses' locations -- a hugely important data point to surface as the speed of broadband to business and industry only climbs in importance in our connected market place.
On the government side, the excellent data team at the U.S. Department of Education just released a map product that visualizes one of the most vital aspects of broadband deployment in America: broadband availability for U.S. schools. Moving forward, the National Broadband Map will be collecting more information about Community Anchor Institutions – the places like schools and libraries that often are the central locations for public broadband access – that will help grow the functionality in products like the Broadband Availabilty map.

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Architectural Framework for Public Safety Broadband Network

by Behzad Ghaffari
March 18, 2011

Do we need one?

On Jan 25th, 2011, the Commission adopted Long Term Evolution (LTE) as the common air interface for the nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety in the 700 MHz band. This order also adopted a set of LTE interfaces to ensure interoperability and roaming. To this end, this item set a minimum level of requirements to establish the technology and standards on which a nationwide interoperable broadband network is to be developed. This was a significant step but certainly not the last one towards nationwide interoperability. Considerable work remains in establishing and adopting rules to ensure nationwide interoperability for this network.

In the same item, the FCC also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that addresses a host of issues related to achieving nationwide interoperability. This includes questions about an architectural framework for the network. When we talk about architecture, it may sound like we are building a house; but in our case, this architectural framework will provide a view of the final network build out, a roadmap to signify the evolution steps for network, and the capabilities offered to users.

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Reducing Barriers for Small and Minority-Owned Businesses

by Gilberto Dejesus
March 17, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:224:height=90,width=70]]The business and technology landscapes can change quickly. Every three years, the FCC fulfills its Congressionally-mandated review that identifies and eliminates unnecessary rules that no longer benefit the businesses we work with.

This review also helps the commission promote policies that favor a diversity of media voices, vigorous economic competition, and technological advancement.

Section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934 (Communications Act) requires that the FCC review and report to Congress every three years on the Commission’s (1) efforts to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers to entrepreneurs and small businesses and (2) and identify and provide proposals to eliminate unnecessary statutory barriers to market entry by those businesses.

In this 2009 Section 257 Report to Congress (2009 Report), the Commission examines regulatory actions taken to reduce market entry barriers by each rule-writing Bureau and Office within the Commission since the last triennial report.  Further, in the 2009 Report, we also make recommendations for legislative action to reduce statutory barriers to market entry.

In addition, as our mandate requires, we also identify other barriers which, if not addressed, have the potential to limit market entry by entrepreneurs and other small businesses.  One such barrier is a general lack of data on minority participation, which could inform decisions and help the Commission gauge the effectiveness of its actions on an ongoing basis.  Another barrier is a lack of outreach to the very parties who could benefit from agency actions.  While the actions described in this report do not curtail these barriers, it is important to recognize them so that they may be addressed in the future.

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Continuing a Conversation About the FCC’s Merger Review Process

by Jonathan Baker
March 17, 2011

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Six weeks after the FCC completed its high profile review of the Comcast/NBCU transaction, Commissioner Meredith Baker (no relation) suggested that the agency’s transaction review process should be overhauled. I have been involved in merger reviews on both sides of the table for most of my career — working with private parties advocating or questioning deals, and at the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice as well as the FCC — putting me in a unique position to address some of the issues that Commissioner Baker raised.

To provide context, I want to begin with what the FCC accomplished in terms of process during its Comcast/NBCU review:

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Chairman Genachowski: The Clock is Ticking

by George Krebs, New Media
March 16, 2011

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This morning Chairman Genachowski spoke on spectrum, consumers and America’s small businesses, delivering the keynote address as part of the Mobile Future Forum. He called attention to the growth of broadband in America, the looming spectrum crisis and our solution of voluntary, market-based incentive auctions to free up that spectrum. He emphasized that “we must act” to set the pace for 21st century technology and said, “there’s no other choice than for the U.S. to lead.”

Given the theme, the event was held at Voxiva, a mobile based information solutions firm recently named one of the most innovative companies in the world. Peter Rysavy of Rysavy Research released a report prior to the Chairman’s talk entitled The Spectrum Imperative: Mobile Broadband Spectrum and its impacts for U.S. Consumers and the Economy. Here's an excerpt from the Chairman's speech:

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:228:]]To some, it was a surprise that the Broadband Plan included major sections on mobile broadband. At the time, many assumed that broadband was what you got when you connected your computer to the modem plugged into your wall.…Mobile broadband is being adopted faster than any computing platform in history. The number of smartphones and tablets being sold now exceeds the number of PCs. The Mobile Future report released this morning puts a fine point on this. According to their report, quote, “The clock is ticking, with rising demand and rapidly closing the gap with existing supply. The consequences of inaction are severe, widespread and wholly negative for consumers and the U.S. economy."

The point deserves emphasis: the clock is ticking on our mobile future. Demand for spectrum is rapidly outstripping supply. The networks we have today won’t be able to handle consumer and business needs.

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Aiding Japan Disaster Relief Fundraising Efforts

by William Lake, Chief of the Media Bureau
March 16, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:222:height=100,width=70]]While there have been other disasters during our lifetime, few are of the magnitude Japan is experiencing.  Over the weeks and months to come, much help will be needed to rebuild the lives of those affected by the continuing devastation the earthquake and tsunami have caused.  To assist with Japan relief efforts, the Federal Communications Commission today announced procedures on how noncommercial educational (NCE) stations can request a waiver to conduct on-air fundraising in support of these efforts.

The Commission’s rules generally prohibit NCEs from on-air fundraising on behalf of any entity other than the station itself.  However, the Commission has previously granted waivers for limited fundraising programs or for station appeals for disasters such as Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the Haiti 2010 earthquake, and the September 11th terrorist attack, among others.  Stations are already requesting waivers and we look forward to granting as many as we can in support of this important cause.

More information can be found in the public notice issued today.

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