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June, 2011

Training on NEPA and Historic Preservation Rules

by Steve DelSordo, Federal Preservation Officer
June 24, 2011

More than 200 people gathered in the Commission Meeting Room Tuesday, June 21, to hear presentations on federal environmental and historic preservation regulations for the siting of communications facilities, including towers used for mobile telephone, broadband, broadcast, public safety, and other licensed services.

 FCC speakers included staff members from the Wireless, Consumer and Governmental Affairs, Media, and Public Safety and Homeland Security bureaus.  In addition, the Federal Preservation Officers from FEMA, USDA Rural Utilities Service, and Department of Commerce NTIA provided information on their review procedures when their agencies fund broadband and public safety projects. The federal employees were joined by review officers from three State Historic Preservation Offices, or SHPOs, who discussed how they participate in the historic preservation reviews. The audience included representatives of communications and tower companies, their trade associations, environmental consultants, licesees, and communications attorneys, as well as the historians and archeologists who study the effects of proposed towers prior to construction.

A webcast of the session is available in our Events section.  The handouts and PowerPoint presentations are available as PDFs below:

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Caller ID Spoofing: Who's really on the line?

by Joel Gurin and Sharon Gillett, Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau and Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
June 23, 2011

Caller ID is a boon to anyone who wants to avoid telemarketers, hostile ex-es, or other examples of what the group No Doubt called "telephonic invasion." ("It's all your fault/I screen my phone calls," they sang in the 1995 hit Spiderwebs.) It's also a helpful tool for busy people who simply want to know if a call is urgent or can be returned later. But scammers have discovered that this useful feature can be used deceptively, in ways that can cost you if you're not careful.

Consider this scenario, which happened to a reader of the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News. You get a call from your gas company, saying that your gas will be shut off unless you immediately make up for a past due bill by credit card. You're very cautious about giving out your credit card number, and it sounds like a scam to you. Except that - the caller ID on your phone tells you that this is, in fact, a call from your gas company. Or is it?  The consumer who got this call was a victim of caller ID spoofing: A con where the scammer made someone else's caller ID appear on the consumers' caller ID service.

There are sometimes good reasons for a caller to hide behind this kind of electronic mask. For example, domestic violence shelters may need to use an ID number in order for their calls to be received, yet may have good reasons not to reveal their true phone number. Far too often, though, fake caller IDs are used by bad actors to get money from consumers, steal consumers' identities, or stalk or harass.  Many consumers have complained to the FCC about callers seeking consumers' financial or other confidential information by purporting to be the consumers' credit card companies, while there are other reports of con artists masquerading as government officials or banks to get identity or financial information from consumers.

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Progress Made on the Road To Bring Broadband to Rural Areas, but Many Miles To Go

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
June 22, 2011

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Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill recognized the importance of bringing broadband to rural America.  It told the FCC Chairman, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, to take a close look at rural broadband, and to submit reports describing “a comprehensive rural broadband strategy” to Congress.  In May of 2009, Acting Chairman Copps delivered the first report.  Today, Chairman Genachowski released the second—and final— report required by the legislation.

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Exceptional Health Care for Rural America

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
June 22, 2011

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There are rules, and there are exceptions.  This week we’re making some common-sense exceptions so that some 235 health care providers can continue to provide high-quality health care to rural America.

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Seeing It All at the Cable Show in Chicago

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 22, 2011

Having just spent two days at the Cable Show in Chicago, IL, I can safely say that the content and programming industries continue to amaze me. As I walked through the many acres of floor displays and demonstrations, I noticed that the tastes and preferences of viewers continues to expand, and that content providers stand ready to cater to virtually every facet of human interest.

Content wasn’t the only attraction, as innovation is flourishing as well. High-speed delivery is only getting faster, and the ability to watch recorded and stored programming from different household TVs and platforms is finally here. DVRs are evolving to fit every time-shifting whim, and on-screen displays are becoming more user-friendly, more attractive, and come with far more options. I watched a number of demonstrations, and can affirm that the at-home consumer experience has been wonderfully enhanced. Individuals can customize their content.

As was said numerous times in Chicago, broadband is a platform for everything, and is the number one growth path for small businesses. I applaud all of the innovators and content providers underneath the colorful cable umbrella, and can’t wait to see even more mind-blowing offerings next year.

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Changes to Filing Regulatory Fees for Certain Wireless Services

by Kathy McLucas, Technologies, Systems and Innovation Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
June 16, 2011

Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau announced that new procedures for parties that file “up front” regulatory fees take effect on June 21, 2011.  The change involves certain wireless services that are required to pay a regulatory fee for the term of a license when an initial license application or renewal application is filed.  The wireless services where these changes apply are listed below.

Currently, both application fees and regulatory fees are included under a single fee payment type code as a single line item on FCC Form 159, Remittance Advice (Form 159).  Effective June 21, 2011, application fees and regulatory fees will have separate fee payment type codes, respectively, and must be listed as separate line items on the Form 159. 

These procedures do not apply to parties that pay annual regulatory fees.

There are a few things that you can do to ensure a smooth transition. 

1)  File applications online through the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and take advantage of the feature in ULS that generates a Form 159 with the application fees and regulatory fees calculated, and the appropriate fee payment type codes already completed.

2)  If you choose to complete the Form 159 on your own, consult the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Fee Filing Guide for information on the appropriate fees, including the fee payment type codes, based on the wireless service and the type of application filing.

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Hearing Aid Compatibility Filing Window Opens

by Jeffrey Steinberg, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
June 16, 2011

On June 15, 2011, the filing window for device manufacturers to file annual hearing aid compatibility (HAC) reports opened.  The reports can be filed between now and July 15, 2011.  This current filing window is only for device manufacturers.  The filing window for service providers opens on December 15th of each year and extends until January 15th of each year.

Under the FCC's rules, providers of digital mobile wireless services and manufacturers of wireless handsets must file annual reports on their offering of handsets that are compatible with hearing aids. These reports contain information about the hearing aid compatibility status of each handset offered, functionalities of hearing aid-compatible handsets, labeling of hearing aid-compatible handsets, and the filing company's consumer outreach efforts. 

Current reports as well as prior reports can be viewed at the hearing aid compatibility page.

Additional information about hearing aid compatibility is available in a fact sheet and an encyclopedia article.

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State SPANs

by Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to the Chairman
June 14, 2011

From 2003 to 2008, the amount spent by state governments rose almost 20 percent. During the same time, the number of reporters covering state government declined by one third. Though it's no panacea, one thing that might help is if every state in the country had a state-level C-SPAN. 

Chapter 8 of the Information Needs of Communities report states:

“Currently, state public affairs networks (SPANs) air on cable TV systems in 23 states and the District of Columbia, delivering gavel-to-gavel coverage of state legislative, executive, judicial, and agency proceedings, as well as public policy events, supplemented with a wide variety of produced public affairs programming.7 Furthermore, the National Conference on State Legis­latures has found that live webcasts (audio, video, or both) of legislative proceedings are available from at least one chamber (House, Senate, or both) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.8 Al­though many of these webcasts are available to the public via broadcast or online links, in 29 states or territories they are not carried on cable.9 To date, satellite providers have not carried SPANs in any state except Alaska.10

In several states, SPANs have played a key role in providing statehouse and other political coverage. For example:

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Pushing Less Paper at the FCC

by Pamela Arluk, Assistant Division Chief, Pricing and Policy Division
June 10, 2011

When I began to oversee our tariff functions several years ago, I was struck by the fact that although incumbent telephone companies filed tariffs over an electronic filing system, the nondominant companies still filed their tariffs by paper and on CD-Rom.  We had boxes and boxes of paper tariffs that needed to be processed.  Many times it was difficult to find a nondominant tariff when a customer or carrier requested one.

The paper filings also presented problems for our tariff logs, which is how the public  finds out when a new tariff is filed.   Most tariffs are filed on 15 days’ notice, which means that other carriers/customers have a limited time to challenge a tariff before it becomes effective.  Unfortunately, it took several days for a paper filing to appear on the tariff log, making carriers scramble if they wanted to challenge a nondominant tariff.  For these reasons, we decided in the Pricing Policy Division that it would be beneficial to add these tariffs to our Electronic Tariff Filing System or ETFS.

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First Nationwide Test of the EAS

by James A. Barnett, Jr., Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
June 9, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:height=106,width=70]]Early warnings save lives. This was demonstrated recently and dramatically during the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated Eastern Japan. Except for Japan’s early warning systems, loss of life would have been much higher. Here at the FCC, we have a series of initiatives to ensure that similarly effective alerting systems are available here in the U.S.

A new era in alerting will commence on November 9, at 2:00 p.m. EST, when the FCC and our federal partners, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Weather Service, will conduct the first ever top-to-bottom, nation-wide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). This test is vital to ensuring that the EAS, the primary alerting system available to the American public, works as designed.

In existence since 1994, the EAS is a media communications-based alerting system designed to transmit emergency alerts and warnings to the American public at the national, state and local levels. Broadcasters, satellite radio and television service providers, cable television and wireline video providers, are all required to participate. Each year, they transmit thousands of alerts and warnings to the American public regarding weather threats, child abductions, and many other types of emergencies. EAS participants provide a significant and largely unsung service to the nation by providing vital information in crises, and the system is designed to work when nothing else does.

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