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April, 2011

International Girls in Information and Communication Technologies Day

by Meredith Attwell Baker, Commissioner
April 27, 2011

Tomorrow, Thursday, April 28th, 2011, is the first annual International Girls in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Day.  Girls in ICT Day is an international initiative launched with the idea of creating a global environment that will empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the field of information and communication technologies.  The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has called upon all ITU member countries to celebrate International Girls in ICT Day on the fourth Thursday in the month of April.
Also tomorrow, the FCC is holding its Career Day at the Commission, where we invite employees to bring their children to work with them and experience a day in the life of an FCC employee.  In connection with both FCC Career Day and International Girls in ICT Day, I encourage all of our ICT stakeholders to open their doors tomorrow in recognition of this important initiative for young women.

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CSRIC Membership Nomination Extension

by Jeffery Goldthorp, Associate Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 27, 2011

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about membership on the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC).  So, we decided to extend the deadline to give everyone time to respond.  THE NEW DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS IS MAY 13, 2011.  The Public Notice extending the date is available on our website at http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db0419/DA-11-713A1.pdf.

We’d like to have a broad range of interests and expertise represented on the CSRIC.  Here are the types of organizations we described in the PN. 

  • Federal, state, tribal, and local; State, tribal, and/or local government agencies and organizations with expertise in homeland security and communications issues;
  • Communications service providers and organizations representing communications service providers;
  • Online retailers, online technology service providers, Internet security companies, and other providers of online services;
  • Entities representing users of communications systems in  business, finance, energy, education, and health care sectors and;
  • Consumer or community organizations, such as those representing people with disabilities, the elderly, those living in rural areas, and those representing populations that speak, as their primary language, languages other than English.

As a refresher - the CSRIC is a Federal Advisory Committee that will provide recommendations to the Commission on topics such as best practices to promote reliable 9-1-1, E9-1-1, and Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) service; best practices to make communications networks, more secure, resilient, and defendable from Internet-based attacks; promoting the development of a broadband-based, next generation alerting system o distribute emergency alerts and warnings to the public, among others.

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2011 APCO Woman’s Leadership Conference

by Jennifer A. Manner, Deputy Chief, Public Safety & Homeland Security
April 22, 2011

I just came back from the APCO Woman’s Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.  While at the event, I had the opportunity to meet a wide cadre of women public safety communications professionals and hear about their experiences.  These women, from across the country and Canada, demonstrate what is right with our country.  Many of these women run important 9-1-1 and dispatch operations—the operations that directly support our country in responding to the worst emergencies.  For example, one of the women I had the opportunity to meet works in the 9-1-1 center in Tucson, Arizona, where the recent shootings of 18 innocent people occurred at an event in a shopping center with Congresswoman Giffords.  The experiences of this woman and the 9-1-1 operations center she works out of during this is a testament to public safety communications professionals throughout the country.  The public safety communications professionals at this 9-1-1 center were able to respond to the emergency in an effective manner; even when the call volume was exponentially higher then what they normally face on Saturday morning.  Because of their ability to perform effectively, emergency personnel were quickly and efficiently deployed to the scene.

This was just one experience that was shared with me at the Conference.  Hearing their experiences provided  many  examples of why I am proud to be able to work at the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau where we all work to support the important goal of ensuring public safety and homeland security by advancing  state-of-the-art communications that are accessible, reliable, resilient and secure, in coordination with public and private partners.

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The Unique Experiences of Women are Enhancements to Leadership

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 21, 2011

Last week, following my trip to Boston, I had the honor of traveling to Orlando to speak at the Women in Public Safety Communications Leadership Conference, hosted by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International. This event is of course near and dear to my heart, as it combines two of my passions: promoting public safety and empowering women. Women face unique challenges in the workplace, so I always jump at the opportunity to share my experiences in arriving at where I am today.

The most important lesson I attempted to impart at the Conference was to understand and embrace the fact that there are many paths to becoming a leader in this industry. Over the years, I have spoken with a number of women who have conveyed their discouragement in the fact that they are unable to advance into leadership positions in their respective fields. I always stress, however, that there is a big difference between being a leader and having the title of leader – the ability to take charge and to be a model for others to follow is what defines a leader, not necessarily the position one holds.

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Apps for Communities

by Clay Johnson, Partner, Big Window Labs
April 14, 2011

The Knight Foundation and the FCC are putting on a contest called Apps for Communities to improve civic connectivity and services in cities and towns across the United States. The goal is to create apps that use publicly available data to help people in communities across the country – for example, by giving them information on public transportation, health care, or other public services. Similar contests like Washington, DC's "Apps for Democracy" and New York City's "BigApps" have been notable successes. The only problem is that a lot of smaller towns don't have the kinds of communities or the budgets to put contests like these together. Apps for Communities takes location out of the equation-- we're looking for developers to use technology and data to help improve access to services in any community across the country.

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Need for Speed, Part II

by Walter Johnston & James Miller, Office of Engineering and Technology
April 13, 2011

Consumers may need better information to determine which broadband service to purchase to meet their needs. Yesterday, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) released a Public Notice requesting comment on this topic. As CGB Bureau Chief Joel Gurin noted, the metrics for broadband speed and performance are not as meaningful to consumers as, say, measures of fuel economy:  “Most people don’t understand megabits-per-second in the way they understand miles-per-gallon.”

But in another way, fuel economy and broadband performance are similar—they’re complex measurements influenced by many factors. How much gas you use depends on everything from how full your tires are to how cold it is outside to how aggressively you drive. Similarly, a single user checking email at 10 AM might find a lower speed broadband service to be sufficient, but the same connection might not support a household with a heavy gaming user, a VoIP- and VPN-using telecommuter, and movie fans watching HD-quality streaming video in the living room at 7 PM. 

It’s no simple task to determine how “fast” your Internet connection is; just developing a measurement methodology that accurately captures and represents performance is a serious technical challenge.

The FCC took on this challenge when we set out to test broadband performance in the homes of 10,000 volunteers across the nation. To do this test, we contracted with SamKnows, a consulting company that conducted a similar effort in the United Kingdom with the regulatory authority for the UK communications sector. Our nationwide test is the first precise U.S. measurement of internet services as delivered to the home by the service provider.

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Reforming Intercarrier Compensation for Broadband

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
April 13, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:119:height=100,width=71]]In February, the Commission took a pivotal step to reform government policy to better reflect the world of broadband today and in the future.  In adopting the USF/ICC Transformation NPRM, the Commission launched major reform of the nation’s universal service and intercarrier compensation systems, building momentum to get the job done as soon as possible.  The current system, based on a voice-centric world, actually deters investment in 21st Century Internet protocol networks.
One part of this effort will examine and learn from the actions that state partners have taken to reduce intrastate access rates – rates that service providers charge one another to complete long distance calls within a state.  By taking action to reform these charges, states further the FCC’s goals of modernizing the intercarrier compensation system for a broadband world, reducing incentives for regulatory gamesmanship, and paving the way to lower long distance and wireless rates for consumers.

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The Beantown Media and Technology Experience

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 13, 2011

Last week, I spent a few days in Boston, aka Bean Town, aka Cradle of Modern America. Since the purpose of the trip was to participate in Free Press’s National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR) and visit Verizon’s LTE Innovation Lab in nearby Waltham, I anticipated being impressed by the level of creativity and excitement at both venues. The trip exceeded my expectations. The majority of the attendees at NCMR are folks who have dedicated their lives to “building the movement for better media” on both traditional and new media platforms. Thursday evening, my legal advisor, Louis, and I had dinner with Jay April and Sean McLaughlin. I knew that both are accomplished and acclaimed veterans of community radio and television. They are also very charming and intelligent.

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Broadband Service: Tell Us About Your “Need for Speed”

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 11, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=71]]Imagine that you're in the market for a new car - but in a different marketplace than the one we're all familiar with. In this parallel universe, fuel efficiency is not described in miles per gallon, but in measure called "miles per blodget" that you pretend to understand, but don't. The car you're interested in is advertised as getting "super mileage" of "up to 50 miles per blodget," without any exact mileage number. And you've heard from friends and news reports that no one has actually measured whether this car, or any car on the market, gets the mileage that it claims.
That's the situation facing many consumers who are trying to choose a new broadband service. As the FCC found in a 2010 survey, 80 percent of Americans with broadband don’t know what speed they’re getting. It’s a safe bet that most of us don’t know what a given number of megabits-per-second translates into in terms of our own online experience. And ads that promise “blazing fast” speeds aren’t giving consumers precise information to help them make comparative choices.
Internet service providers have recognized this problem and have taken some good steps to help educate their customers about the services they offer. Today, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC issued a Public Notice that builds on their work to open a national discussion on the “need for speed.” We’re asking some basic questions: What internet speeds, and what other factors in broadband performance, are important to consumers? How do consumers’ broadband needs vary depending on the applications they want to use, from email to gaming? And how can that information best be made clear and easy to understand?

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Disaster Response

by Louis Sigalos, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau - Southwest Region
April 11, 2011

Hurricane Katrina changed so much for so many.  For those who lived in the path of the storm, the change was devastating and profound.  Their lives were forever changed.  For the Federal Communications Commission the change was not nearly as dramatic, but from these events we were changed as well.
Among the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was an obliterated communications infrastructure.  Following the storm, the White House called upon every federal agency to participate in the relief effort.  So, there we were, the FCC on the ground in Louisiana.  What could we do?  How could we help?
Many times out of adversity, ingenuity reveals itself and, in this case, there was an immediate need to know which licensees, especially fire departments, police, hospitals, and broadcasters had communications capabilities. Well, at the FCC we are uniquely qualified to do that and we call the equipment and software that provides us with that capability “Roll Call.”  It’s a package of radio spectrum analyzers, scanners, antennas, and computers that can sweep the spectrum and catalog activity in specific frequencies that we license.  Simply put, we scan the airwaves, take the gathered data and cross reference it against our licensing database.  The result is a report that shows who is broadcasting/transmitting and who is not within a specific geographic region.  This is incredibly valuable information when trying to assess the impact of a hurricane on the communications infrastructure.

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