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Official FCC Blog

July, 2011

Attorney Honors Program Launches

by Julie Veach, Deputy General Counsel
July 29, 2011 - 04:59 PM

I am delighted to be able to say that the FCC has launched the Attorney Honors Program. Our program is a two-year employment and training program designed to introduce new and recent law school graduates to the field of communications law and policy. We are accepting applications from law students in their final year of study and judicial clerks serving in the 2011-12 judicial term for openings in the Fall 2012 class. Applications must be received by September 23, 2011.

Many prior Honors Program participants are still here at the FCC and have assumed positions of leadership, advised Commissioners, defended the agency before federal appellate courts, and led teams working on some of the most challenging problems before the agency. Others have taken opportunities at private companies, law firms, public interest organizations, and on the Hill. The Program aims to prepare new attorneys for the greatest challenges of communications law practice in the context of doing the work of the agency and serving the public interest. Consider applying. Visit our Attorney Honors Program page for more information, eligibility criteria, and applications instructions.

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Taking a Peek Under the Hood of the New FCC.Gov

by Benjamin J. Balter, New Media Fellow
July 26, 2011 - 12:41 PM

Public dot-gov sites are playing a big role in delivering on the promises of open government. As many people know, government sites -- WhiteHouse.gov for example -- are becoming active participants in this conversation between citizens, developers and dot gov teams. We’re proud that the new FCC.gov has been able to contribute, and we wanted to give an overview of the community-driven features that power our site.

wrench rustAs previously announced, the site relies on the open-source content management system (CMS) Drupal to organize and present the content that users see -- content such as the encyclopedia, newsroom and even this blog post.

While the open-source platform offers many features on its own, we’re leveraging other Drupal add-ons, commonly known as “modules,” to add functionality. Modules can either be purpose-built for a particular site, or taken from a common repository of open-source, community-contributed modules. Think of it as the difference between creating your own recipe and using one from your favorite cookbook. On the new FCC.gov, we use a mix of both custom and contributed modules.

Contributed Modules

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Second Annual Wireless World Travel Week

by Mindel De La Torre, Chief, International Bureau
July 19, 2011 - 04:49 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]Now that the summer season is in full swing, many of us will be traveling abroad. So, the FCC has designated the week of July 18th as the second annual Wireless World Travel Week. During this week, we are providing tips and information on “roaming” with your mobile telephone, for Americans heading abroad on vacation or other international travel. Roaming means that you are not using your local carrier any more, but your phone continues to work seamlessly on another company’s network as it moves with you. We are also offering tips on making international phone calls from the U.S. These tips focus on how to dial such calls, and how to find the cheapest rates. They are available on our Wireless World Travel page

Roaming.  You may find it helpful to use your mobile phone as you travel.  For example, you can call home, check e-mail, and access data.  But, you need to do some homework before your trip to make the most of your mobile device abroad, and avoid unhappy surprises.  If you don’t, you may find that your mobile phone is not compatible with the local network, or you may incur high charges that you won’t know about until you return home.

The key fact is that roaming is complicated.  So check with your service provider to verify that your mobile phone will work where you’re going, and find out the rates you’ll pay for using it.  You may want to ask about rates for four different uses while abroad:

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Hot Times for Spectrum Policy

by John Leibovitz, Deputy Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
July 19, 2011 - 03:19 PM

Things are heating up in Washington. Of course, we’re not referring to the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling, or even the 100-degree temperatures expected later this week. We’re talking about spectrum policy.

Last week, Republican and Democrat leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced discussion drafts of legislation that would allow the FCC to hold “voluntary incentive auctions” for rights to use electromagnetic spectrum—the airwaves. The draft bills follow bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate Commerce Committee last month.

Never mind the heat—it’s wonky talk like this that keeps people away from Washington in the summer (or all year round, for that matter). But actually, a very simple and powerful idea animates the proposed legislation.

Gordon Crovitz of the Wall Street Journal explained it lucidly in his column yesterday.

One of the FCC’s main responsibilities is to grant licenses to use spectrum. For many years, the agency determined the “best” licensee through an administrative process. In 1993, Congress granted the FCC authority to hold spectrum auctions. Nearly two decades later, FCC auctions have spurred hundreds of billions of dollars of private investment in wireless networks and generated over $50 billion in proceeds for the Treasury.

Now, as America faces a spectrum crunch driven by the spectacular growth of mobile broadband, we need to take the next step.

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Unauthorized Fees: What's Hiding in Your Phone Bill?

by Joel Gurin, Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
July 12, 2011 - 11:48 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:]]

If you're a savvy consumer, you know how small charges can add up over time. You may regularly scrutinize your bank statement for overdraft fees, scan your credit card bill for hidden charges, and pay careful attention to shipping and handling every time you order something online. But you may not realize that unauthorized mystery fees can also hide in your phone bill. Without realizing it, you may be a victim of "cramming," a fraudulent, illegal practice that the FCC is taking action to fight.

Cramming happens when a company puts a charge on your phone bill for a service that you never ordered and almost certainly don't need. Cramming companies don't even need to know your address to place a charge on your bill: They just need to find your phone number online or through a directory. These fake charges can be for services that sound like they're part of your phone service, like long distance service, or they can be for things as diverse as horoscopes, psychic hotlines, or diet plans. When crammers purport to provide a form of telephone service, the FCC generally has jurisdiction to take action against them; when a cramming company bills for an unrelated service, it falls under the Federal Trade Commission's jurisdiction.

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Exclusive Sneak Peek: FCC Technology Experience Center and #SeeTheSpectrum

by Tammy Sun, Director, Office of Media Relations
July 11, 2011 - 10:02 AM

TEC Center

Broadband is no longer a luxury.  It's an essential platform for new products, economic growth and job-creating opportunities and opening markets that allow businesses to start, grow and hire.

Mobile broadband is growing at an exponential rate and as demand increases, the benefits are more compelling by the day.  That’s why one of the top priorities of the FCC is to unleash more mobile spectrum through measures like voluntary incentive auctions, a proposal that the President has championed along with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and more efficient spectrum management policies.

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Communicating with the Public During Emergencies

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
July 8, 2011 - 10:05 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:]]With over 1,400 tornadoes and widespread flooding, we have already seen too much loss of life from natural disasters this year.  A bright spot in these terrible reports is when we hear a survivor say, “I got the warning, and I got to safety.”  This is the crucial premise of all alerts and warnings.  We may not be able to protect every single person from every disaster, but if we can get timely, accurate information about imminent danger to people in harm’s way, they can take action to save themselves and their loved ones.  Alerts provide the information that turns precious seconds into survival.

One of the FCC’s primary statutory obligations is to promote the safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications, and we are committed to this responsibility. We recognize this should be a team effort, and the FCC works closely with FEMA to bring the future of emergency alerting to consumers.

In 2008, the FCC adopted rules allowing wireless carriers to voluntarily transmit emergency text-like alerts to subscribers’ cell phones and other mobile devices. Since then, the FCC, FEMA, the wireless industry and state and local governments have worked to make a personal localized alerting network (or PLAN) a reality.  Four carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – have committed to making PLAN available in New York City by the end of the year, and these carriers and others will begin to deploy PLAN in other parts of the country by April 7, 2012, the deadline set by the FCC.

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2011 American Library Association Conference

by Staff, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
July 6, 2011 - 05:03 PM

By Helen Chang, Becky Lockhart and Mikelle Mora

The American Library Association opened its annual conference in New Orleans on June 24.  We attended the conference as representatives of the FCC.  Our purpose was to help educate consumers, librarians and educators on important issues such as Broadband and E-rate.  During the event, we spoke to attendees, disseminated information and attended sessions.  Below, we have shared our ALA experiences with you.

Enjoy,

Helen, Becky and Mikelle

American Library Association conference

Helen:  I was last in New Orleans for the ALA Conference in 2006. At that time, New Orleans was just recovering from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and most conventions had re-scheduled their events to other cities.  ALA, however, decided that the conference would go ahead in the Big Easy even though a sizeable portion of the convention center was still undergoing repair.  Their reasoning?  The best way to help New Orleans recover would be to bring business to the city.  And, the best way to do that would be to go ahead with the conference in New Orleans as scheduled.  The city responded with an overwhelming welcome.  Now, five years later, the massive convention center is in full operation and the city is humming.  More than 20,000 people were in attendance and the FCC was among over 900 exhibiting organizations.

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Contributing Code Back: FCC.gov’s Open-Source Feedback Loop

by Benjamin J. Balter, New Media Fellow
July 6, 2011 - 12:59 PM

Here at the FCC, we're always excited when we can contribute to open source software. Open source software is just like any other software, except the creator publishes the underlying source code that powers the application, allowing others to improve upon or adapt the project to their own needs, and hopefully, contribute those improvements back to the community to do the same. Think of it as the software equivalent of the “give a penny, take a penny” jar at your local convenience store.

hardcoding

Many popular applications and technologies you or I may use on a daily basis have open source software under the hood: Facebook (PHP) and Twitter (Hadoop), Wikipedia (MediaWiki),cell phones (Android), your web browser (Firefox), even FCC.gov (Drupal, PHP, jQuery, Apache, Solr, MySQL).

Today we follow up on our March release of DeveloperView, with two small open-source releases. The FCC became the first .gov to contribute to WordPress, a content management system that silently powers just over 13% of the Internet, with a faceted search widget. The tool, which we use internally to track migration of content from the old site to the new site, allows users to refine search results - not too dissimilar from the filter by type filters in the right sidebar of fcc.gov's search results.

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